Abstract

Mammals and palms are important elements of fauna and flora in the Neotropics, and their interactions, such as fruit consumption and seed dispersal, are one of the most important ecological relationships in these ecosystems. The main objective of this study was to identify the relative importance of mammals in the dispersal and predation of Mauritia flexuosa palm fruits. We installed camera-traps in front of palm fallen seeds and clusters with fruits. A catalog of species was prepared with the recorded videos and the foraging behaviors exhibited were classified and identified. In addition, two exclusion treatments with three repetitions each were used. In the semi-open treatment, a plot was fenced with metal mesh leaving four openings in order to allow access only to small and medium sized mammals, while in the open treatment, the small, medium and large sized mammals had free access. In both cases, seed removal was evaluated. We recorded a total of 19 species of mammals, nine of which fed on palm fruits and the other five were seed dispersers. We reported for the first time the consumption of Mauritia flexuosa fruits by Atelocynus microtis. The species with the highest relative importance was Dasyprocta fuliginosa, which showed the highest percentage of seed dispersal (63.5%) compared to the other species. Tayassu peccary was identified as an in situ consumer, eating 45.3% of seeds without dispersing them. The number of seeds consumed in situ in the open treatment showed significant differences regarding the semi-open treatment, suggesting greater involvement of large mammals in this process. In conclusion, the fruits of M. flexuosa are an important food source for the local mammal community. Additionally, the consumption of seeds under the canopy of the mother palm is proportionally greater than their dispersion. Generally, the pressure of frugivorous species over seeds may determine the reproductive strategies of plants. However, research on effective dispersion, dispersal distances and demographic impact should be conducted to determine the specific role of medium and large sized mammals in the ecology of this palm.
Keywords: Palms, frugivory, aguti, Dasyprocta fuliginosa, Tayassu pecari.