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The importance of non-flying mammals as pollinators has been a matter of debate in recent years. In the present study, non-flying mammals were regularly captured visiting several species of proteaceous plant at five sites in eastern Australia. Pollen was present in the faeces of these mammals, suggesting that visits to flowers of these plants were taking place. The two mammal species most frequently recorded as visitors (Antechinus stuartii and Petaurus breviceps) were studied to assess their potential as pollen vectors. The magnitude of the pollen loads they carried (several thousand pollen grains per head) is comparable to that of nectar feeding birds in other studies. Pollen removal was used as an index of visitation to one plant species, Banksia serrata, and this showed considerable loss of pollen overnight, a time when small mammals are the predominant floral visitors. Experiments in two separate years showed that fruit-set occurred on inflorescences exposed only to visits by nocturnal animals. Visitation to flowers by non-flying mammals is probably more widespread and frequent than has been appreciated to date, and this study shows that these animals are probably pollinators of considerable importance.
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