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Are Figs Always Keystone Resources for Tropical Frugivorous Vertebrates? A Test in Gabon

Abstract : This paper evaluates the suggestion of Terborgh (1986) that figs constitute "keystone plant resources" for frugivorous mammals and birds in African rain forests as they appear to do in South America and Asia. From studies of the diets of monkeys and other mammals and birds in Gabon, we show that figs are infrequently eaten by most species, and are always eaten in small amounts. Figs in Gabon occur at very low densities and have unpredictable fruiting patterns and relatively low crown production. Thus, fig fruits are not staple foods and cannot sustain most populations of frugivorous species during periods of low fruit availability. In Gabon, monkeys and large birds depend on the fruit of two species of Myristicaceae and of one species of Annonaceae. These regularly bear ripe fruit during the lean period and are abundantly consumed. Figs occur in such distant patches that they are mainly fed on by wide-ranging animals such as large frugivorous bats.
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Annie Gautier-Hion, Georges Michaloud. Are Figs Always Keystone Resources for Tropical Frugivorous Vertebrates? A Test in Gabon. Ecology, Ecological Society of America, 1989, 70 (6), pp.1826-1833. ⟨10.2307/1938115⟩. ⟨hal-01369757⟩

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