Introduction / Background / Justification. Arboreal and flying frugivorous animals represent primary dispersers in the Neotropics. Studies suggest a possible compensation for the loss of large species by smaller ones with expanding rampant anthropogenic pressures and declining populations of larger frugivores. However, studies on seed dispersal by frugivores vertebrates generally focus on the diurnal, terrestrial, canopy, and flying species, with the nocturnal canopy ones being less studied.
Objective(s)/Hypothesis(es). This study aimed at filling the gap of knowledge among the latter category. We hypothesized that foraging and seed dispersal by smaller nocturnal may compensate for the loss of other large arboreal seed-dispersing frugivores.
Methods. We set up camera traps over 30 m high in the crowns of two nutmeg tree species (Virola kwatae and V. michelii, Myristicaceae) during the fruit peak period. We used the CamtrapR® package on Rstudio® Version 1.1.463 and Digikam® software to extract, organize, and tag images, respectively. In addition, we compared the diversity of fruit consumed and the size of seeds listed in the literature among the main frugivores known to disperse the study nutmeg trees.
Results. The analysis of 162,885 images recorded during 55 survey days on 11 fruiting trees produced 587 independent events of nine main frugivores. The nocturnal kinkajou (Potos flavus (Schreber, 1747) (Order Carnivora, Procyonidae) represented 48 percent of the records. The overall distribution of average seed size dispersed by the observed frugivores shows similar patterns among animal species and groups. The careful examination of images revealed that primates could pick, open, and peel the entire ripe fruit during the day before the kinkajou had access to dehiscent ripe fruit at night. Toucans and other birds only have access to dehiscent fruit during daily hours.
Implications/Conclusions. Our finding suggests that kinkajou could play a significant role as a disperser of the study nutmeg trees and other plant species at the plant community level. Arboreal camera traps also allow for visualization of niche partitioning between the observed canopy species and how they behave, highlighting the advantage of primates over kinkajou. Such information is vital for conservation because small frugivores' compensation of seed dispersal is crucial in increasing anthropogenic stressors. Extending the remote camera trap protocol to other fruiting trees appears fruitful to measure the impact of disturbances on the functioning of tropical forests and better evaluate the role of all canopy frugivores animals.
Kinkajou, FrenchGuiana, Rainforest, Nutmeg, Virola, Seed, Frugivory,