Beth Kaplin, PhD
Department of Environmental Studies
I investigated the role of white-faced capuchin monkeys (Cebus capucinus) in processes of seed dispersal within a tropica premontane wet forest and its surrounding matrix in Monteverde, Costa Rica. No study prior to this had examined capuchins in a tropical premontane wet forest. In this study C. capucinus ate a diverse variety of fruit (45 species) and passed intact seeds of 33 species, some of which were viable. Psidium guajava, and introduced species, was a significant component of the capuchin’s diet during this study. The consumption of this fruit species resulted in a significant decline in overall seed species diversity and abundance in C. capunchin defecations and may be negatively affecting the dispersal of native forest species. An assessment of post dispersal seed fate is needed to determine the overall seed dispersal effectiveness of these primates in Monteverde. To explore how my research fits in with the literature on primate seed dispersal I conducted a literature review on the similarities of seed dispersal ecology of this New World primate species and a frugivorous Old World monkey, the red-tail monkey (Cercopithecus ascanius). I compared fruit handling behaviors, foraging patterns, food processing, gut retention time, and defecation patterns of the two species. Both species are described as effective seed dispersers based on the diverse variety of fruits they consume and the fact that they disperse viable seeds.