Many plant—animal interactions can be challenging to directly observe, due to species being small, cryptic and/or nocturnal. Previous research on seed predation and dispersal by rodents in the Fynbos Biome of South Africa has relied on indirect evidence, as methods for directly monitoring rodent—seed interactions were not available. The aims of the study were to determine which resident small mammals scatter-hoard nuts and the geographic, seasonal and taxonomic extent of scatter-hoarding in the Fynbos Biome. We used camera traps focused on seed stations at eight sites in the Fynbos Biome to determine the responses of small mammals to tagged nut-like fruits (nuts) of seven endemic plant species belonging to the Proteaceae (n = 3), Rosaceae (n = 2), Restionaceae (n = 1) and Cupressaceae (n = 1), as well as commercial sunflower seeds. We found Acomys subspinosus and Gerbilliscus paeba scatter-hoarded nuts, which they typically carried and buried individually. Rhabdomys pumilio and Micaelamys namaquensis only consumed nuts. Leucadendron pubescens and L. loranthifolium are added to the list of known plant species that are scatter-hoarded by rodents. Nuts of Cliffortia cuneata and C. phillipsii, and the critically endangered Widdringtonia cedarbergensis, were consumed but not dispersed by small mammals, whereas nuts of Ceratocaryum argenteum were neither consumed nor scatter-hoarded by rodents (within its native range). Gerbilliscus paeba and A. subspinosus scatter-hoarded nuts aseasonally, outside of seed-fall periods. Scatter-hoarding was widespread throughout the Fynbos Biome, although it was highly localised across and within sampled sites. The absence of scatter-hoarding rodents at sites with rodent-dispersed plants remains an important aspect for future investigation.
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Vol. 52 • No. 1