THE ECOLOGICAL IMPORTANCE OF ARTIBEUS AND OTHER FRUGIVOROUS BATS WITHIN THE IWOKRAMA FOREST IN GUYANA, SOUTH AMERICA: AN INVENTORY OF DISPERSED SEEDS
Horsley, Thomas Wilson
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Artibeus species are primarily frugivores, and through the ingestion and defecation of consumed fruits, they play a critical role in their environment through the dispersal of early successional and pioneer species contributing to reforestation of fragmented habitat. The objective of this study was to survey the plant species dispersed by all captured frugivorous bats with special emphasis on the ecological contribution of Artibeus obscurus, A. planirostris, and A. lituratus within the Iwokrama Forest in Guyana. Research was conducted in concordance with long-term vertebrate monitoring conducted during the summer rainy season by Operation Wallacea since 2011 within the Iwokrama and Surama Forests. In summer of 2013, stomach contents were taken from collected frugivorous bats, and fecal samples were taken from all captured frugivorous bats. Samples were used for comparative analysis among sympatric frugivorous bat species. Artibeus lituratus, A. planirostris, and A. obscurus accounted for an average of 44% of total captures and 65% of total captured frugivores. Twenty plant species were identified in fecal samples, including Cecropia latiloba, a species previously unknown to be bat dispersed. C. latiloba was dispersed most commonly by A. planirostris and A. obscurus. Twenty-three of 63 total fecal/stomach content samples (37%) represent new dispersal records. These results further our understanding of seed dispersal by Neotropical bats.