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Body size as an important factor determining trophic niche partitioning in three syntopic rhinolophid bat species

Andreas, Michal, Reiter, Antonín, Cepáková, Eva, Uhrin, Marcel
Biologia 2012 v.68 no.1 pp. 170-175
Rhinolophus, body size, diet, habitats, moths, pellets, Slovakia
We investigated a community of syntopically occurring horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus hipposideros, R. euryale, R. ferrumequinum) in southern Slovakia. The faecal pellets of these bat species were collected in the field and later analysed under a dissecting microscope. The three species studied are known to be very similar as far as their ecology, echolocation and preferred habitats are concerned, but they diverge significantly in their body sizes. In this study, all three species fed predominantly on moths [59–80 percentage frequency (%f); 87–95 percentage volume (%vol)], but their diet compositions differed in the size of individuals consumed. The smallest bat species (R. hipposideros) fed only on the smallest moths (%f = 59; %vol = 87), the medium-sized species (R. euryale) mainly on medium-sized moths (%f = 60; %vol = 74) and the largest one (R. ferrumequinum) especially on the largest moths (%f = 54; %vol = 89). Despite similar preferred habitat and the main prey category, the rates of trophic niche overlap were surprisingly low. The trophic niche percentage overlap was 7–31% (computed from %f data) and 1–20% (computed from %vol data), respectively and suggests an extraordinary importance of mere divergences of bats in their body sizes for trophic niche partitioning and stable species coexistence.