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Mutualism between a leguminous tree and large African monkeys as pollinators

Abstract : Observations of a monkey community in a forest of the Zaire Basin show that four species intensively lick the nectar of Daniellia pynaertii (Caesalpinoideae) for 5 months of the year; nectar makes up a mean of 20% and a maximum of 50% of monthly plant feeding records (Fig. 3). Such intensive nectar-feeding by monkeys of up to 8 kg body weight probably developed in these basically frugivorous primates as an alternative strategy to cope with a shortage of fleshy fruits. This would have been possible due to the high density of the plant species, the synchrony and abundance of its flowering (Fig. 2), and the large size of the nectar drop and its nutritional value. Patterns of monkey movements among Daniellia trees show that one flowering tree may receive up to 10 species visits and 30 individual visits per day, for a total of up to 141 min. (Table 1). A monkey troop can visit 12 trees in succession over less than 3 h (Fig. 4). This suggests that monkeys are able to promote pollen transfer both among flowers of the same tree and between conspecific trees. The individual tree fruiting index is positively correlated with its flowering index and with the amount of visits by monkeys, indicating at least that monkeys do not inhibit the reproductive ability of flowers (Fig. 5). These results suggest that monkeys can be considered as a guild of effective pollinators. Long-term coevolution between the plant and its present-day pollinators seems unlikely, and we suggest that monkeys replaced other pollinators, such as Lepidoptera. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that tubular flowers adapted for pollination by Lepidoptera are found in affine species of the same genus and of affine genera, the latter being known to be pollinated by these insects. In contrast, D. pynaertii flowers typically meet the pollination syndrome currently defined for attracting large mammals: notably conspicuousness and open morphology of the flowers, nectar colour and abundance. These characteristics suggest that coadaptation between monkeys and plant or at least one-sided adaptation has operated.
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Annie Gautier-Hion, Fiona Maisels. Mutualism between a leguminous tree and large African monkeys as pollinators. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Springer Verlag, 1994, 34 (3), pp.203-210. ⟨10.1007/BF00167745⟩. ⟨hal-01369943⟩



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