Frugivorous animals are some of the most fascinating creatures on Earth. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most interesting examples of frugivores found in nature today.
They’ve evolved unique adaptations that allow them to consume and thrive on a diet mainly comprised of fruits. For example, their teeth and jaws are designed to help them consume fruits. Their canines are considerably atrophied, while their molars are much more developed. This allows them to pierce the skin of fruits and break the seeds or stones inside to get to the juicy, sweet center.
15 Examples of Frugivores
Whether they’re harvesting fruit from tall trees or munching away at juicy berries, frugivores play an important role in many ecosystems around the world. Here are 15 fascinating examples of these unique and specialized creatures:
1. Green-billed toucan
Scientific name: Ramphastos dicolorus
The green-billed toucan is a large, tropical bird native to Central and South America. This species has a bright red body, black wings, and an iconic bill with a distinctly yellow and green color pattern.
The toucan’s bill is not only visually striking, but it also serves a very important purpose: it allows the bird to reach and/or pluck fruits growing in the forest canopy. This species also plays an important role in dispersing seeds throughout the rainforest by consuming fruit and excreting them over a wide area.
Scientific name: Pan paniscus
The bonobo is an endangered primate found in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This species is closely related to chimpanzees but can be distinguished by its longer legs and slightly smaller body size.
Bonobos are mainly frugivorous, consuming a wide variety of fruits, nuts, and seeds. They communicate and socialize through complex vocalizations, facial expressions, and physical contact. As a result, bonobos have developed an intricate society in which cooperation and peace are emphasized over competition and aggression.
3. Bornean orangutan
Scientific name: Pongo pygmaeus
The Bornean orangutan is one of the world’s largest and most endangered apes. This species is native to Borneo, a large island located between Indonesia and Malaysia.
They have long, reddish-brown hair and are extremely adept at climbing trees. Bornean orangutans spend most of their time in the canopy eating various fruits and rarely descend to the ground. In addition to being a frugivore, this species also sometimes eats flowers, bark, and insects to supplement its diet.
4. Titi Monkey
Scientific name: Callicebus cupreus
The titi monkey is a small, arboreal primate native to South America with an average weight of 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) and a total head-and-body length of about 13 inches (33 centimeters). It has long, woolly fur that is typically gray or reddish brown in color on the back and white on the underside.
Titi monkeys are mainly frugivorous, but they also eat leaves, seeds, and some insects. They have quite complex social and communication systems, with groups composed of a monogamous pair and their offspring. Grooming is an important part of maintaining social bonds, and they use a variety of vocalizations to communicate with each other.
5. Western hoolock gibbon
Scientific name: Hoolock hoolock
The Western hoolock gibbon is a tailless primate found in India and Bangladesh. This species has black fur and white eyebrows, giving it a “wise” look that earned it the nickname “White Browed Gibbon.”
Western hoolock gibbons are mainly frugivorous but will also eat the leaves and buds of some trees. They travel along branches using a form of locomotion known as brachiation, which involves swinging from branch to branch with their long arms. They have an impressive vocal range, and the duets of mated pairs can be heard from miles away.
6. Red-ruffed lemurs
Scientific name: Varecia rubra
The red-ruffed lemur is a primate found only on the island of Madagascar. This species has a reddish-brown coat, black hands, feet, face, and tail, and a distinctive white ruff of fur around the neck.
Red-ruffed lemurs are mainly frugivores but have been observed to consume small amounts of leaves and shoots. They are highly social creatures and live in groups of up to 16 individuals. They communicate using a variety of vocalizations and scent marking, as well as visual displays such as facial expressions and body postures.
Scientific name: Macaca
Macaques are a group of Old World monkeys found in North Africa and Asia. There are more than 20 species in this group, which vary widely in size, color, and habits.
Most macaques are mainly frugivorous but supplement their diet with leaves, flowers, and insects. They are highly social animals, living in groups of up to 50 individuals. Macaques can live for up to 30 years, and some are considered invasive species and can quickly destroy agricultural crops.
Scientific name: Tapirus
Tapirs are large, herbivorous mammals found in South and Central America and Southeast Asia. They are stocky animals with short, prehensile noses and even coats of black-brown fur.
Tapirs feed on fruits, berries, leaves, twigs, and aquatic plants. While tapirs mainly live in dry forests and grasslands, they are also good swimmers and can be found near water bodies.
They have been known to submerge themselves in water to allow small fish to eat parasites off their skin. Tapirs are solitary animals but can form small herds during the mating season.
Scientific name: Columbidae
Also known as fruit-doves, this genus of colorful birds found mainly in Southeast Asia and Oceania feed mainly on fruits, berries, and nuts. They range in size and come in various hues, including purple, blue, green, and yellow. Fruit-pigeons live in small groups and communicate through cooing sounds and short whistles.
10. Giant golden-crowned flying fox
Scientific name: Acerodon jubatus
The Giant golden-crowned flying fox is a unique species of frugivore found in the Philippines. As its name suggests, it has a golden-colored patch of fur on its head, resembling a crown.
It is the largest bat in the world with an average wingspan of up to 1.5 meters, and can weigh up to 1.4 kilograms. It is mainly frugivorous, feeding on figs and other fruits found in the rainforest.
These bats play an important role in dispersing seeds for the regeneration of trees and other plants. However, their population is under threat due to deforestation and hunting. They are protected by law in the Philippines and internationally by CITES.
Scientific name: Pan troglodytes
Chimpanzees are among the most intelligent frugivores in existence and are renowned for their complex social behavior. Native to tropical forests of Central and West Africa, these primates live in large groups of up to 150 individuals, often forming strong bonds with each other.
Although their bodies are largely adapted for tree climbing, they can also walk on two feet. Furthermore, they are highly adaptable and have been known to use tools for various purposes, such as using sticks to obtain termites or rocks to crack nuts.
Scientific name: Cassuarius casuarius
Cassowaries are large and unique frugivores found in the tropical forests of northern Australia, Papua New Guinea, and nearby islands. They have distinctive scaly skin with bright blue wattles on their heads and long claws used to defend themselves against predators.
Cassowaries mainly feed on fruit, often swallowing them whole and dispersing the seeds through the forest as they move around. Furthermore, these birds play an important role in seed dispersal for trees like the iconic Queensland nutmeg tree (Myristica insipida).
13. Fruit fly
Scientific name: Drosophila melanogaster
The fruit fly is a tiny frugivore found in almost every part of the world. It has a small body and long wings, enabling it to navigate through foliage in search of ripe fruits easily.
These flies lay their eggs in various types of fruits, and when the larvae hatch, they feed on soft parts of the fruit. This process can damage the fruit, making it more susceptible to disease and rot. Fruit flies are also known to spread plant diseases, which is why they are seen as pests by farmers and gardeners.
14. Hammer-headed bat
Scientific name: Hypsinathus monstrosus
The Hammer-headed bat is a large species of frugivore native to tropical forests in Africa. It has an unmistakable shape, with its long and narrow head resembling a hammer.
The wingspan of these bats can reach up to one meter, and they weigh up to 420 grams for males and 230 grams for females. These bats feed on fruits such as mangoes, bananas, figs, and dates.
They can either consume on the spot or carry the fruit to a more sheltered area, such as their roosting site. They play an important role in seed dispersal by excreting the seeds of the fruits they consume.
15. Night monkey
Scientific name: Aotus
Also known as the owl monkey, the Night Monkey is a frugivorous primate found in Central and South America. It has an unmistakable appearance, with large eyes and a white face mask.
Its large eyes give it excellent night vision, allowing it to forage for food nocturnally. Its diet consists mainly of fruits, but it can also eat flowers, insects, and even small animals, depending on their availability.