Litter breakdown by the Seychelles giant millipede and the conservation of soil processes on Cousine Island, Seychelles

Lawrence J.M. ; Samways M.J. (2003)


The Seychelles giant millipede, Seychelleptus seychellarum, is abundant on Cousine Island, Seychelles (ca. 4.4 ind m-2), where there are no alien invasive mammals as predators. This study of its feeding behaviour and activity pattern showed that its dietary range is wide, feeding mostly on leaf litter and fallen fruit. There were quantitative differences in the feeding behaviour and activity patterns of both sexes and immatures. Its ingestion rate for its size was relatively low, but its role in litter breakdown was substantial. It ingested 4.55% of the litter standing crop, and 17.19% of the daily litter fall every 24 h. Total faecal production was 2.90% of the total litter standing crop and 10.96% of the daily litter fall. This has a highly significant effect on Cousine Island which, being small and granitic, depends on nutrient cycling to maintain its ecological integrity, especially when seabirds are absent and not contributing to soil nutrient input. As this Seychelles endemic millipede has been extirpated from several islands, its continued conservation on the islands where it still occurs is not simply about conserving an endemic species, but also about maintaining intact a tropical ecosystem, with a keystone species. © 2003 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.

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