Long-tailed Macaque feasting on a durian

LongTailedMacaque-durian [MichaelKhor]

A Long-tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis) chanced upon a durian fruit under the tree (Durio zibethinus). It waited a while for a group of photographers to move away but they did not. The lure of the ripe fruit was too strong and the macaque moved in regardless of the people around. It pried open the segments to expose the fleshy seeds and was soon covered with ants (above).

LongTailedMacaque-durian [MichaelKhor]

It hurriedly feasted on the fleshy bits around before grabbing a fleshy seed and scampering up a tree to eat it in peace. But there was no peace as it tried desperately to get rid of the ants from its body (above, video below).

Most animals, including the wild boar (Sus scrofa), have to wait until the durian fruits fall and in the process split open before they can get at the fleshy seeds. The squirrel is an exception as it usually gnaws an opening through the tough spiny outer layer to get at the seeds. Only then will birds like the Laced Woodpecker (Picus vittatus), Greater Green Leafbird (Chloropsis Sonnerati), Orange Bellied Flowerpecker (Dicaeum trigonostigma) and White-crested Laughingthrush (Garrulax leucolophus) have a chance at the seeds. And even the Long-tailed Macaque.

The fruit of the wild durian (Coelostegia borneensis) on the other hand will split open while still on the tree. This allows birds like the Great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis) to get at the seeds in the safety of the branches above…

Michael Khor
8th September 2016

This post is a cooperative effort between Birds, Insects N Creatures Of Asia and BESG to bring the study of birds and their behavior through photography and videography to a wider audience.

3 Responses

  1. Am

    A really interesting post. Especially since I’m a durian lover.

    Are there any videos or pictures of squirrels gnawing the outer husk of the durian open? I’m really curious as to how they do it, given that the fruit is covered with such sharp and hard spines.

    On that note, does anyone know why the durian has such deadly spikes? I can’t think of a reason why a fruit would evolve to develop such a dangerous defence mechanism and be so hard to get at, especially if the seeds are dispersed by animals?

  2. YC Wee

    There is a video in this link http://www.besgroup.org/2014/05/01/animals-that-visit-the-durian-tree-durio-zibethinus/ showing a squirrel eating from a durian… The durian fruit needs to ripen before they fall. Falling helps to split the segments open to allow animals access to the seeds. Such large seeds need large animals to help disperse them. So no point making them accessible on the tree as only birds and smaller mammals can reach the top branches of the tree… and they will only eat the flesh and dump the seeds below the tree, not some distance away. Thus the spiny protective shell. My take!

  3. Am

    Thanks for the squirrel link!
    Hmm, that makes sense, about large seeds needing large animals for dispersion. I still wonder about the spikiness though! Such a dangerous fruit!

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