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Fruits Rhinoceros Eat: Dispersal of Trewia Nudiflora (Euphorbiaceae) in Lowland Nepal

Eric Dinerstein and Chris M. Wemmer
Ecology
Vol. 69, No. 6 (Dec., 1988), pp. 1768-1774
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/1941155
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1941155
Page Count: 7
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Fruits Rhinoceros Eat: Dispersal of Trewia Nudiflora (Euphorbiaceae) in Lowland Nepal
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Abstract

To document the dispersal of the fruits of the tropical tree Trewia nudiflora by a large herbivore, we examined several aspects of the Trewia nudiflora-Rhinoceros unicornis interaction. The fruits of Trewia nudiflora (Linn.) (Euphorbiaceae), a common riverine forest tree of southern Nepal, are large, hard, and dull-colored upon ripening. Although unattractive to arboreal and volant frugivores (monkeys, bats, and birds), Trewia fruits are eaten by greater one-horned Asian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis). During the rainy season (June-October), Trewia fruits become an important food source for rhinoceros. Trewia seeds remained from 3 to 7 d inside the gut of captive rhinoceros, but gut treatment itself had no significant effect on germination success. Manuring the seeds in dung significantly increased seedling growth. Trewia is shade-intolerant; despite abundant fruit fall and reasonable seed germination, seedling recruitment was poor under the forest canopy. Uningested fruits often remained hard throughout the monsoon, preventing seeds from germinating. Seeds defecated into grassland latrines created by rhinoceros developed into robust seedlings, whereas seedlings on forest latrines generally died soon after germination or after the monsoon. Heavy seed loads in dung, low germination from uningested fruits, and rapid growth of Trewia seedlings on grassland latrines demonstrate the role of rhinoceros in dispersal and recruitment of woody species in riverine grasslands and the significance of megafaunal dispersal.

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