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Open AccessArticle

Mineral Licks as Diversity Hotspots in Lowland Forest of Eastern Ecuador

Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, 117 Newins-Ziegler Hall, PO Box 110430, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
Estación de Biodiversidad Tiputini, Universidad San Francisco de Quito, P.O. Box 17–1200–841 Quito, Ecuador
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Diversity 2011, 3(2), 217-234;
Received: 24 December 2010 / Revised: 26 April 2011 / Accepted: 26 April 2011 / Published: 28 April 2011
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biodiversity, Conservation and Ecosystem Management)
PDF [304 KB, uploaded 28 April 2011]


Mineral licks are sites where a diverse array of mammals and birds consume soil (geophagy) or drink water, likely for mineral supplementation. The diversity of species that visit such sites makes them important for conservation, particularly given that hunters often target animals at licks. Use of mineral licks varies among species, with frugivores among the most common visitors but there is considerable temporal and spatial variation in lick use both within and among species. Camera traps triggered by heat and motion were used to document use of mineral licks by birds and non-volant mammals over a four-year period at a lowland forest site in eastern Ecuador. We obtained 7,889 photographs representing 23 mammal species and 888 photographs representing 15 bird species. Activity (photographs/100 trap-days) at the four licks varied from 89 to 292 for mammals and from six to 43 for birds. Tapirs (Tapirus terrestris), peccaries (Pecari tajacu, Tayassu pecari), deer (Mazama americana), and pacas (Cuniculus paca) were the most frequent mammal visitors; guans (Pipile pipile) and pigeons (Columba plumbea) were the most common birds. Use of licks varied diurnally and seasonally but patterns of use varied among species and sites. Mineral licks provide an important resource for many species but further studies are needed to determine the precise benefit(s) obtained and how benefits may vary with diet and other factors, such as rainfall. View Full-Text
Keywords: camera trap; diurnal variation; Ecuador; geophagy; mineral lick; seasonal variation; Yasuní camera trap; diurnal variation; Ecuador; geophagy; mineral lick; seasonal variation; Yasuní
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Blake, J.G.; Mosquera, D.; Guerra, J.; Loiselle, B.A.; Romo, D.; Swing, K. Mineral Licks as Diversity Hotspots in Lowland Forest of Eastern Ecuador. Diversity 2011, 3, 217-234.

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