Endozoochory by Didelphis albiventris Lund, 1840 (Mammalia, Didelphimorphia) in a Semideciduous Seasonal Forest remnant in the South of Brazil

<div><p>Abstract Seed dispersal is a process that is fundamental to maintenance of forest ecosystems, enabling plants to successfully germinate in sites that are favorable to their growth, minimizing risks of competition, the action of pathogens and predation by herbivores. Intraspecific and seasonal variations in fruit consumption by Didelphis albiventris, and its contribution to dispersal and germination of endozoochorous seeds were analyzed in a Semideciduous seasonal forest. The study was conducted at Morro do Coco, which is a hilly area in the municipal district of Viamão, RS, Brazil, bordering the shore of Guaíba lake (30º16’15”S, 51º02’54”W), between June 2013 and May 2014, with a total sampling effort of 2992 trap-nights. A total of 18 individuals were captured and 24 fecal samples were collected. Fruits were identified in 96% of the samples, corresponding to 18 plant species, belonging to 10 families. The most common species were Ficus cestrifolia and Syagrus romanzoffiana, which occurred in 66% of the samples, followed by Banara parviflora and Cecropia pachystachya, both with a 25% rate of occurrence. There were no differences between the richness of fruit consumed by males and females (t = 0.083; DF = 32; p = 0.934) and there were no seasonal variations (H = 3.165; p = 0.367). The greatest breadth of dietary niche occurred during the summer, when twice as many fruit species were recorded in the diet than during the autumn, which was the season with the smallest breadth. Both germination percentage and germination velocity of Ficus cestrifolia and Psidium sp. seeds increased after passage through the animals’ digestive tracts (percentage germination increased more than 40% and velocity was up to 7 times highest). Didelphis albiventris can be considered a frugivorous-omnivorous species, since fruit are an important item of its diet, and it contributes to dispersal of a large quantity of small endozoochorous seeds, increasing both germination percentage and germination velocity of some species.</p></div>