E l l e n    A n d r e s e n ’ s    B i o g r a p h y

Dung beetles do not eat seeds, they eat dung; but before they eat it, or use it for laying their eggs, they bury it, and while doing so, they may accidentally bury some of the seeds that are present in the dung of animals that include fruits in their diet. Buried seeds have a much higher probability of surviving, since seeds on the surface of the forest floor are very likely to be found by a rodent and eaten. Those seeds that escape predation by seed-eating animals may germinate, and establish as little seedlings in the understory of the rainforest. However, sometimes the seeds are buried too deeply by the dung beetles so that even though they germinate, they are not able to emerge and they die. Thus the interaction between arboreal mammals that eat fruits, the seeds of these fruits, dung beetles, and rodents is a very complex one, and the end result will very much depend on the kinds of beetles and rodents that are present in a forest, as well as on the type of seed.

In 1994 I started my Ph.D. at the University of Florida, and I came to Brazil to do the field work for my doctoral dissertation. I am trying now to answer the questions that were raised by my shorter study in Peru, and looking in more detail at the effect the dung beetles can have in the regeneration of rainforest plants. The study of the interactions between plant and animals, like seed dispersal and pollination, is important because they may, in part, explain why there are so many species of organisms in the rainforest, and also, by understanding them better, we will be able to predict the effects of habitat disturbance (like logging and hunting) and develop better management and conservation strategies for the remaining rainforests.

Ellen’s Interview/Journals Ellen Andresen’s Biography    1     2     3