The Seeds the Agoutis Buried: A Study of Seed-Caching Behaviors in the Central American Agouti, Dasyprocta punctata

Gordon, Haley [Browse]
Senior thesis
48 pages


Riehl, Christina [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology [Browse]
Class year
Summary note
The Central American agouti, Dasyprocta punctata, is a frugivorous Caviomorph rodent found in Neotropical forests throughout Central America 1. When food is plentiful, the agouti stores seeds for times of scarcity by burying them in the ground, thereby acting as an agent of seed dispersal for many Neotropical tree species. Seed dispersal via caching by agoutis may be essential for the survival of some of these species, such as Hymenaea courbaril and Dipteryx panamensis 2. The current observational study examines the seed-caching behaviors of agoutis on Barro Colorado Island, Panama, to determine how these behaviors may change over an agouti’s lifespan, or with varying abundance of food. The study focuses on the time agoutis spend creating a cache, the behavior of covering caches with leaves, and the behavior of digging at multiple preliminary locations before settling on a final cache site. Caching behavior was found to be consistent for infant, juvenile, and adult agoutis, except that infants and juveniles dug at significantly more preliminary sites before caching a seed, thereby acting as more effective dispersers than adults by carrying seeds farther distances away from their source. Agoutis foraging from an abundant food source were found to spend significantly less time caching each seed than they did normally. This suggests that a relatively high abundance of seeds causes agoutis to value each seed less, and therefore, agouti caching decisions may be related to relative seed abundance.

Supplementary Information