Published in the Journal of Tropical Ecology 2011 (volume 27, issue 5, pp 529-538). Abstract also published in Lemur News
(Volume 16, 2011) and Primate Eye (No. 103, February 2011). View the study presented as a poster with images and data: varecia-seed-dispersal-poster_psgb-winter-2010_final_pdf.pdf .
Presented at the Primate Society of Great Britain Winter Meeting 2010, Bristol Conservation & Science Foundation 4th Annual Symposium December 2011, and in a more informal talk at the October 2011 Anglo Malagasy Society meeting. Listen to the AMS talk here and view the accompanying slides here: AMS seed dispersal talk KMoses
Press coverage and application of results in conservation
This work was covered in the news here. I was interviewed by Mongabay.com about this work too – read the interview here. My findings have been used by a number of conservation organisations working in Madagascar on forest restoration and lemur conservation.
Seed dispersal is one of the most important ecological processes on Earth, but remains poorly understood on Madagascar. Black-and-white ruffed lemurs (Varecia variegata) possess a suite of behavioural and ecological attributes often associated with effective seed dispersal, but no previous studies have investigated dispersal effectiveness in this species. This three-month study investigated primary seed dispersal by two groups of V. variegata in the Manombo forest of southeastern Madagascar by describing feeding and
ranging behaviour and aspects of dispersal effectiveness, using direct feeding observation, faecal sample analysis and germination trials. The lemurs dispersed seeds of 40 species, most of which were large (>10 mm). The two groups dispersed an estimated average of 1,444 seeds/ha/yr within their home range; the population at Manombo was estimated to disperse as many as 55,115 seeds/km2/yr. Passage through the lemurs’ gut was rapid (4h 26 mins) and generally had beneficial effects on seeds, increasing germination success and reducing latency period, compared to controls. The vast majority of seeds were dispersed away from their parent plant, to a mean and maximum distance of 180 m and 506 m respectively. Dispersal distance is relatively low compared to many anthropoid primates; it is predicted that lemurs in general may disperse seeds over relatively short distances. Suggestions for how this may have arisen are made. Overall, these preliminary results suggest that V. variegata may be an effective disperser of seeds in terms of both quality and quantity, and may be critical for dispersal of large-seeded species which other frugivores may not be able to swallow. Further research is required, however, to describe dispersal patterns across seasons and years and examine post-dispersal events.
Full paper and thesis available upon request.