The role of nocturnal omnivorous lemurs as seed dispersers in Malagasy rain forests.
Fruit-eating animals play important roles as seed dispersal agents in terrestrial systems. Yet, the extent to which seed dispersal by nocturnal omnivores may facilitate germination and the recruitment of plant communities has rarely been investigated. Characterizing their roles in seed dispersal is necessary to provide a more complete picture of how seed dispersal processes affect ecosystem functioning. We investigated the roles and impacts of two species of nocturnal omnivorous lemur species, Microcebus jollyae and M. rufus, on seed dispersal in Madagascar's rain forests, through analysis of fecal samples and germination experiments. Data show that these lemur species, which are among the world's smallest primates, dispersed 22 plant species from various forest strata and that the defecated seeds germinated faster and at higher rates than control seeds for the eight plant species we tested. Even though mouse lemurs dispersed both native and non-native plant species, non-native plant species represented a relatively small proportion (17%). These results demonstrate that overlooked nocturnal omnivores can act as important seed dispersers, which may have critical implications for forest regeneration and the maintenance of plant diversity in fragmented/degraded forests. Finally, we provide critical insights into the previously unobserved behavior and diet of endangered nocturnal lemurs for their effective conservation.