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15 February 2021 First come, first served: fruit availability to keystone bat species is potentially reduced by invasive macaques
Raphael D. Reinegger, Ryszard Z. Oleksy, Prishnee Bissessur, Houshna Naujeer, Gareth Jones
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Abstract

Bats provide important pollination and seed-dispersal services to native angiosperms. However, many bat species are increasingly threatened by human disturbance, including the Mauritian flying fox (Pteropus niger), an endemic, keystone seed disperser. Native forests are scarce and P. niger frequently feeds in commercial plantations, where it now is considered a pest and subjected to frequent culling, thereby hindering conservation efforts. The invasive long-tailed macaque (Primates: Cercopithecidae, Macaca fascicularis) potentially competes with P. niger for scarce native fruits. We investigated the extent of dietary overlap between M. fascicularis and P. niger on Mauritius by sampling fruit drop for 17 tree species and identifying additional food species along line transects. Fruits of 13 of 17 species were eaten by animals and fruit production across tree replicates generally was low but highly variable. Although M. fascicularis ate only 4% of fruit overall, they consumed 20–100% of the fruits of seven species. Approximately 39% of dropped fruits were intact; based on field observations, most probably were dropped by M. fascicularis. Unlike P. niger, M. fascicularis ate mostly unripe fruit and depleted all fruit of certain species at an unripe stage. Hence, M. fascicularis may restrict P. niger's diet and potentially disrupt seed dispersal of some tree species. Furthermore, small trees are more prone to fruit depletion at an unripe stage by macaques. In addition, asynchronous fruiting phenology across forest fragments may modulate the provision of native fruits to P. niger throughout the year. Although competition can be demonstrated only by controlled experimental studies that are logistically impossible in our scenario, our results highlight potential detrimental consequences that introduced frugivores may have on keystone seed dispersers. Finally, our results suggest that a more integrative and island-wide approach to forest restoration may be valuable for the conservation of P. niger.

© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society of Mammalogists, www.mammalogy.org.
Raphael D. Reinegger, Ryszard Z. Oleksy, Prishnee Bissessur, Houshna Naujeer, and Gareth Jones "First come, first served: fruit availability to keystone bat species is potentially reduced by invasive macaques," Journal of Mammalogy 102(2), 428-439, (15 February 2021). https://doi.org/10.1093/jmammal/gyaa182
Received: 5 October 2019; Accepted: 23 December 2020; Published: 15 February 2021
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