The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Effects of fruit odor on fruit consumption and seed dispersal by Microcebus murinus and M. ravelobensis in a tropical dry forest in northwestern Madagascar


Anthropology, University of Toronto

Friday 3:15-3:30, Ballroom C Add to calendar

Microcebus spp. are potentially important seed dispersers in the uniquely depauperate frugivore communities of Madagascar. Numerous studies have demonstrated the importance of fruit morphology, including color and size, in diurnal primate foraging decisions, though data are lacking on morphological characteristics of fruits consumed by nocturnal primates. Here, we examine the effect of fruit morphology on fruit consumption and seed dispersal by Microcebus ravelobensis and M. murinus in northwestern Madagascar. Because Microcebus spp. are small nocturnal dichromats, we hypothesize that fruit odor will drive variation in Microcebus spp. fruit consumption and seed dispersal.

Over a three month period (May – July, 2012), we offered 676 ripe fruits of 15 plant species to wild-trapped Microcebus (N = 99) and identified and counted all seeds contained in feces collected from traps. We quantified fruit odor for each fruit species using volatile odorant-absorbent filters (XAD, Sigma-Aldrich) and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). We determined total volatile organic compound (VOC) emission intensity for each fruit species by integrating under GC-MS chromatograms.

Together, both Microcebus spp. dispersed seeds of the fruit of nine species intact, and did not consume the fruit of six species. The surface-area scaled odor intensity of unconsumed fruits is significantly lower than that of consumed fruits (t-test: t = 3.34, p = 0.01).

This is the first study to compare quantitative measures of fruit odor to fruit consumption and seed dispersal by a nocturnal primate and supports the hypothesis that fruit odor drives some variation in Microcebus spp. fruit choice.

Grant support: National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Sigma-Xi Grant-in-Aid, General Motors Women in Science and University of Toronto (KV), NSERC and University of Toronto (SML and RJB).

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