Tropical Ecology and Conservation [Monteverde Institute]

Alternative Title

El papel de L-dopa en las frutas Mucuna: un elemento de disuasión o de un marcador


Jeff Dale



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Publication Date

August 2008


Agoutis (Dasyprocta punctata) are ubiquitous in Monteverde and are known dispersers of Mucuna urens seeds despite the high levels of L-dopa the seeds contain. I tested the effects of L-dopa added to pejibaye (Bactris gasipaes) on seed selection by D. punctata. I hypothesized that L-dopa acts more as a marker for agouti dispersal than a deterrent for insect predation. In five sites of known agouti activity, I placed three types of seeds (i.e. those with natural L-dopa, synthetic L-dopa, and with neither) in piles of ten approximately one meter apart. My primary data were sequences of seed removal patterns. However, the total number of seeds removed was also recorded. The results indicate randomness in term of the sequences of seed removal. However, total seed count data and comparison of first and second choice data showed a non-random pattern. Specifically, there is for seeds with L-dopa added, and there is a significant trend to removing the same seed type following the first. The latter two results demonstrated a tendency for habituation in agouti behavior. Based on the results, I hypothesized that the reason for habit formation was the L-dopa consumption. A more expansive study of sequence data that evaluates seeds eaten vs. seeds cached could serve to answer a lot of the questions left open by my analyses.


Las guatusas (Dasyprocta punctata) son ubicuos en Monteverde y son conocidos dispersores de las semillas de Mucuna urens a pesar de los altos niveles de L-dopa que las semillas contienen. Probé los efectos de L-dopa añadidos al pejibaye (Bactris gasipaes) en la selección de la semilla por D. Punctata.


Central American agouti, Seeds--Dispersal, CIEE Summer 2008

Palabras claves

Pizote Centroamericano, Semillas--Dispersión, CIEE Verano 2008


7 pages

Geographic Location

Monteverde (Puntarenas, Costa Rica)

Holding Location

Monteverde Institute


English; Spanish

Media Type



Digital Only





The role of L-dopa in Mucuna fruits: a deterrent or a marker



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