Of Seeds, Dung, and Monkeys

music
ambience: Amazon rainforest

To the casual observer, what may look like a pile of monkey dung is actually one of the most important means of seed dispersal in the Amazonian rainforest. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

“Seed dispersal happens to be one of the most important factors in regenerating the Amazon forest or any forest for that matter.

Kevina Vulinec is an assistant professor at Delaware State University

“In the Amazon, depending on the area your in, forty-five percent to ninety percent of the seeds of the woody plants are actually dispersed by animals. And most of those seeds are dispersed where an animal will swallow a seed whole. The seed passes through the digestive tract of the animal and then is defecated later. So the animal carries the seed with it, maybe a great distance, and deposits the seed and that way that seed escapes from predators and diseases that might be attacking it’s parent plant. In our case, we were looking at the primary seed dispersers as monkeys. Once the monkeys have defecated the seed, there is a pile of feces on the ground that has seeds in it. And dung beetles which eat the feces come along and they bury that. And they bury that with the intention of getting the feces away from any competitors, like flies or other dung beetles, so they bury it underground. And they also take the seeds with it, just incidentally. They’re not interested in the seeds, they don’t eat the seeds, but they take them underground — and then rodents that might come along looking for seeds, rodents may not find it now, if the seeds are buried underground by the dung beetles.”

We’ll hear more about dung beetles in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

music

Of Seeds, Dung, and Monkeys

Monkeys are a virtual "Garden Club" of the Amazonian rainforest.
Air Date:06/05/2002
Scientist:
Transcript:


music
ambience: Amazon rainforest

To the casual observer, what may look like a pile of monkey dung is actually one of the most important means of seed dispersal in the Amazonian rainforest. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

"Seed dispersal happens to be one of the most important factors in regenerating the Amazon forest or any forest for that matter.

Kevina Vulinec is an assistant professor at Delaware State University

"In the Amazon, depending on the area your in, forty-five percent to ninety percent of the seeds of the woody plants are actually dispersed by animals. And most of those seeds are dispersed where an animal will swallow a seed whole. The seed passes through the digestive tract of the animal and then is defecated later. So the animal carries the seed with it, maybe a great distance, and deposits the seed and that way that seed escapes from predators and diseases that might be attacking it’s parent plant. In our case, we were looking at the primary seed dispersers as monkeys. Once the monkeys have defecated the seed, there is a pile of feces on the ground that has seeds in it. And dung beetles which eat the feces come along and they bury that. And they bury that with the intention of getting the feces away from any competitors, like flies or other dung beetles, so they bury it underground. And they also take the seeds with it, just incidentally. They’re not interested in the seeds, they don’t eat the seeds, but they take them underground -- and then rodents that might come along looking for seeds, rodents may not find it now, if the seeds are buried underground by the dung beetles."

We'll hear more about dung beetles in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

music