Name: Bruno Lucas Fontes dos Santos
Type: MSc dissertation
Publication date: 10/03/2020

Namesort descending Role
Arnaud Léonard Jean Desbiez Co-advisor *
Aureo Banhos dos Santos Advisor *

Examining board:

Namesort descending Role
Adriano Garcia Chiarello External Examiner *
Albert David Ditchfield Internal Examiner *
Ana Carolina Srbek de Araujo External Alternate *
Arnaud Léonard Jean Desbiez Co advisor *
Aureo Banhos dos Santos Advisor *

Summary: Priodontes maximus, known in Brazil as the tatu-canastra, diverged within the
Xenarthra superorder at least 22 Ma and is one of the oldest living mammal species on
Earth. It is classified within large mammals, and an adult individual can measure 1.60 m
and weigh 60 kg in free life. The giant armadillo is a flag species of South American
forests and is endangered throughout its distribution. In Brazil, its occurrence is wide,
currently encompassing the Cerrado, Pantanal, Amazon and Atlantic Forest biomes, but
the species is threatened in the Vulnerable category. In the Atlantic Forest, it is Critically
Endangered and the Linhares-Sooretama Forest Complex, formed by the Sooretama
Biological Reserve, Vale Nature Reserve and other contiguous reserves, is one of the
last refuges for the species in the entire Atlantic Forest. Until now, there were few records
and isolated information about the species in this forest complex, in addition its ecological
role had not yet been studied in the Atlantic Forest. In this sense, this dissertation aimed
to overcome this gap, generating knowledge about the conservation status and about the
ecological role of the species. In the first chapter, the historical records and knowledge
of research on terrestrial vertebrates carried out in the forest complex in the last 15 years
were gathered. In addition, searches were conducted for evidence of the presence of the
species. In total, there were 70 records, including carcasses, excavations and images of
the giant armadillo. 23 armadillo excavations were found and three individuals were
recorded in the cameras trap. The records showed that the conservation status of the
species in the region is very worrying, as the number of individuals surviving in the area
is small and the population is under strong threats from hunting and from the BR-101
highway. In view of this scenario, the species existence in this forest complex is highly
compromised and its population is endangered. In the second chapter, the first study on
the ecology of the armadillo in the Atlantic Forest was carried out. The giant armadillo is
known to be an allogeneic engineer of the ecosystem, because through its excavations,
they alter the physical environment, create new habitats and influence the resources for
several species of wild vertebrates. In the present study, camera traps were installed for
monitoring 14 excavations of giant armadillo in the Sooretama Biological Reserve. The
results showed that at least 37 species of vertebrates used the excavations and the
richness of species detected in front of the excavations was greater than the points
without excavations. In addition, 15 species were detected exclusively by excavations
and only two at points without excavation. Many of these species are endangered. Thus,
the giant armadillo is an ecosystem engineer also in the Atlantic Forest and despite being
in danger of extinction, its excavations still provide resources, shelter and protection for
many other animal species. However, unless the course of extinction can be reversed
soon, the giant armadillo will no longer be able to play its important ecological role.
Keywords: Chlamyphoridae; Xenarthra; ecosystem engineer; armadillo; ecology;
Sooretama Biological Reserve; biodiversity; camera trap.

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