Frugivores and their role in structuring the
forests have been the focus of my studies.
One of the most fascinating frugivore
mammals in the forests of the
Agasthyamalai range is the brown palm
civet (Paradoxurus jerdoni), a night rider
endemic to the Western Ghats. This fruit
eating mammals' diet can outclass any
royal gourmet. Examining about 1000
scats of this civet, I recorded nearly 60
plant species in its diet. But what
intrigued me most was the dominance of
fruits from the trees belonging to the
Elaeocarpaceae family, also a source of
the Rudraksh beads, highly consecrated
by the followers of Hinduism. Three species
of this family were quite common in these
forestsóElaeocarpus munronii, E. serratus,
and E. tuberculatus.
Fruiting season of these three species occur
during the months of April to September
when copious amount of fruits can be seen on the forest floor. As the popular Indian saying
goes, not all fingers are alike, these sacred
trees' interactions too were varied with
animals in different ways. While I would
frequently find a lot of seeds and pulp of E.
serratus in the scats of brown palm civets and
sloth bears (Melursus ursinus), seeds of E.
munronii, probably more of a bird-dispersed species, and E. tuberculatus, dispersed
by bats, were lesser in comparison.
Another study in the same site has shown
that pollinators of this group also differed.
E. munronii flowers were pollinated by
social bees, E. serratus by flies, and E.
tuberculatus by moths and beetles.
However, the story does not end there.
Another bunch of night robbers are also
known to predate on the seeds of these
elaeocarp species. Prominent are the
wood rats (Rattus sp), the Malabar spiny
dormouse (Platacanthomys lasiurus),
and flying squirrels (Petaurista sp) who
are known to eat the seeds gnawing
through their hard shells and extracting the
kernels. The elaeocarps are meshed up with
diverse set of animals in complex fashion
which needs to be elucidated with further
Editor: Allwin Jesudasan
Associate editor: Rajkamal Goswami
Editorial Review: R. Ganesan, M. Soubadra Devy, T. Ganesh
Design and presentation: Kiran Salagame
Volume 6, Issue 2
A S H O K A T R U S T F O R R E S E A R C H I N E C O L O G Y A N D T H E E
N V I R O N M E N T
Elusive fruit eaters and sacred trees
- Divya Mudappa
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