So conservation biologists from theSmithsonian Tropical Research Institute netted six toucans from a rainforest near Gamboa, Panama, and strapped on lightweight backpacks containing a GPS tracker and an accelerometer. The backpacks recorded location and activity level, and were designed to fall off after 10 days.
By matching the roaming data with average regurgitation times from zoo toucans, the researchers calculated that seeds are dropped about 470 feet away from their mother tree. Toucans, they also found, were most active in the morning, followed by a lunchtime lull, with a secondary peak in activity in the afternoon, a common pattern for tropical birds.
“Seeds ingested in morning (breakfast) and afternoon (dinner) were more likely to achieve significant dispersal than seeds ingested mid day (lunch),” write Roland Kays and his colleagues in Acta Oecologica.
The fruit of nutmeg trees typically ripen early in the day, possibly to take advantage of the toucan’s early morning activity.