Agasthya 6.2 Elusive fruit eaters and sacred trees
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Centre for Excellence in Conservation Science
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E-mail: allwin.jesudasan@atree.org
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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 detailed studies.


                                                                                



                                                                                                               



Editorial Team
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
      April 2012

       
       
 
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Elusive fruit eaters and sacred trees
- Divya Mudappa
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