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Endozoochorous seed dispersal by sympatric mustelids, Martes melampus and Mustela itatsi, in western Tokyo, central Japan

Yamato Tsuji, Takahumi Tatewaki, and Eiji Kanda

We investigated seed dispersal by two sympatric mustelid species, the Japanese marten (Martes melampus) and Japanese weasel (Mustela itatsi), along an intercity forest path in western Tokyo, central Japan, from Jul 2007 to Jul 2008.We aimed to investigate the effect of food/habitat preference of these mustelids (martens are semi-arboreal frugivores while weasels are terrestrial carnivores) on their seed dispersal characteristics, which determine their efficacy as seed dispersers. In total, we analyzed 478 fecal samples collected from the two mustelids (Nmarten = 381, Nweasel = 97). The proportions of feces containing seeds for martens and weasels were 81.4% and 55.7%, respectively. The number of plant species whose seeds were found within the feces were 28 and 17, respectively. Almost all seeds within feces of both mustelids were intact. The number of plant species whose seeds were found within a single fecal sample ranged from one to four, but no significant difference was detected between the two mustelids. However, marten feces contained a significantly greater number of seeds of most plant species as well as total number of seeds than did weasel feces. The numbers of plant species and seeds represented in marten feces varied seasonally, but those represented in weasel feces did not. Our findings suggest the possibility that both mustelids act in some ways as seed dispersers, although martens seem to disperse a greater diversity and total amount of seeds.

Mammalian Biology 76: 628-633

AUG/20/2011

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