Frugivory and the effects of ingestion by bats on the seed germination of three pioneering plants
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The dispersion and seedling establishment of pioneering plants can be favoured by the presence of frugivorous bats because the bats usually improve seed germination after ingestion. Although seed germinability is known to vary greatly after ingestion by different bats, the relative contribution of each bat species to seed germination within plant communities is poorly understood. In this study, we first determined the fauna of frugivorous bats in a semideciduous seasonal forest remnant in southern Brazil and subsequently identified the plant species of the seeds passed through their guts. Second, the germination performance (i.e., germination percentage and speed) of the seeds of three pioneering plants (Piper aduncum, Piper hispidinervum and Solanum granuloso-leprosum) ingested by the most abundant bats was compared with that of the non-ingested seeds (seeds collected from fruits). Additionally, the effects on seed germination of different bat species were compared. During one year, five species of frugivorous bats were caught, and the seeds of eleven identifiable plant species (not counting those of undetermined species) were found in their faeces. We found that the germination performance of the seeds of Piper species was significantly enhanced after ingestion by bats, whereas S. granuloso-leprosum seeds had neutral or reduced germinability when seeds in faeces were compared with pulp-removed seeds. Our results revealed that the bat species that were captured exerted different effects upon seed germination; such a disparity is expected to result in different rates of early establishment of these pioneer plants in tropical forests, most likely affecting forest composition and structure, particularly during the initial stages of succession. (C) 2013 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.