Arboreal camera trap reveals the frequent occurrence of a frugivore-carnivore in neotropical nutmeg trees
Kinkajou (Potos flavus) frequently visited the two species of Virola nutmeg trees during the peak fruiting season at the study site (see Tab. The analysis of the activity of kinkajous in trees suggests that fruiting nutmeg trees are often visited when fewer alternative fruit resources are available in the early rainy season, a period with low fruit production55,56. Consequently, fruit surveys on the ground had shown a more significant proportion of Virola fruit with single valve husks at disturbed vs control forests57. The review of the size of seeds dispersed by the main frugivores observed and known to forage in nutmeg trees showed the significant overlap between frugivores. Although these observations support the possible compensatory role of these three species, in the absence of spider monkeys for seed dispersal, howler monkeys and brown capuchins remain preferred hunting targets36.
These observations highlight the importance of studying the role of kinkajous and other nocturnal species such as olingos (Brassaricyon gabbii, Allen 1876) in seed dispersal. In this study, another arboreal, nocturnal frugivore was recorded once: Caluromys philander (Linnaeus 1758). Seed size can be a fundamental threshold level for seed dispersal, especially for birds. This study points out the importance of smaller vertebrates for seed dispersal and explores a new approach for studying arboreal frugivores with camera traps. Despite these constraints, arboreal camera traps allowed for continuous, non-invasive observation of animals in the canopy, both day and night, providing a wealth of information (diversity, activities, and behaviour) about the frugivore guild of Virola spp.
During this study, thanks to many recorded events for kinkajous (N = 280, during 1320 trap nights), we showed how arboreal camera trapping protocols in targeted fruiting trees could complement the classical radio-tracking of animals foraging in their home range. Cameras might, therefore, successfully be implemented in addition to line transects47, eco-acoustics9, or radio-tracking10,42 to obtain the best overview of the diversity and behavioural ecology of the arboreal and flying fauna. To conclude, the extension of protocols such as this one to other fruiting trees is essential to measure the impact of human disturbance on the ecology and dynamics of tropical forests.
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