Long-tailed Macaque feasting on a durian

on 29th September 2016

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.

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

3 Responses

  1. 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. There is a video in this link 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. 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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