FIG-SEED PREDATION BY 2 SPECIES OF CHIRODERMA: DISCOVERY OF A NEW FEEDING STRATEGY IN BATS

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Abstract

The feeding ecology of most neotropical bat species is still poorly known, indicating that many complex ecological relationships may be obscured. During a study of bats and their potential role as seed dispersers at the Botanical Garden of Rio de Janeiro, southeastern Brazil, we obtained data on 2 species, Chiroderma doriae and C. villosum, that act as seed predators rather than as seed dispersers. Fecal sample analyses and captive-feeding experiments confirmed this previously undocumented feeding strategy in bats. Both species use a specialized strategy of fig-seed predation, ingesting the rich nutrient content of seeds and discarding most of the coat fragments as compact oral pellets. Evidence from the more abundant C. doriae showed that seeds were consumed in both drier and wetter seasons and by individuals of both sexes, all age classes, and all reproductive stages. Use of seeds, in addition to fruit pulp, probably represents an improvement in the acquisition of nutrients available in figs, showing that the degree of feeding specialization of Chiroderma on this resource may be higher than previous data have shown.

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