Navigation Links
Food forensics: DNA links habitat quality to bat diet

All night long, bats swoop over our landscape consuming insects, but they do this in secret, hidden from our view. Until recently, scientists have been unable to bring their ecosystem out of the dark but thanks to new genetic techniques, researchers from the University of Bristol and Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, Canada, have been able to reconstruct the environment supporting these elusive creatures.

Working at three sites in Southern Ontario (Canada) the team of students and scientists monitored the diet of little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) from colonies living on agricultural land and at a conservation site. Guano (bat faeces) was continually collected under each roost from May to August. Back in the lab at the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario in Canada, the team extracted insect DNA from the material and sequenced a "DNA barcode" which is a small region of DNA that can be used to identify animal species. The team then matched these unknown insect sequences in bat guano to a library of known sequences to identify which insect prey the bats where eating.

"This technology is very new," says lead author Dr Elizabeth Clare of the University of Bristol's School of Biological Sciences. "It gives us an entirely new insight into the bats' behaviour. Instead of just finding they ate a moth or a mayfly, we now know exactly what species of insect it was, providing us with important information on their habitat."

Using this technique, the team found that the bats rely heavily on insects from aquatic environments. They were also able to identify the exact species of insect prey, which revealed that different colonies exploit different source water, sometimes rivers and streams, sometimes ponds, depending on the local landscape.

"Some of the insects they eat come from very specific habitats and have specific pollution tolerances.

These 'environmental indicators' allow us to reconstruct exactly what their foraging habitat was like," explains Dr Clare. "It's a very non-invasive way of tracking their behaviour a bit like looking through someone's rubbish bin to see where they shop."

The bats foraged very locally travelling only a few hundred meters to catch insect prey. The species they ate changed seasonally and the shifts corresponded to the phases of pregnancy and lactation in the bats.

The researchers also identified that bats in agricultural habitats seemed to have a more restricted diet of fewer insect species than bats in a conservation area even though the source water in all areas was of good quality.

Dr Clare added, "This suggests that even small conservation projects can have an impact on the entire food chain. This site has a small patch of forest, a small pond and a dedicated group of conservation workers. All these components seem to have generated a good environment for the insects and thus the bats they support."

The results of this research are becoming more and more important as this bat species is under serious threat from the spread of a fungal disease called 'white nose syndrome' which may threaten the survival of these populations in North America.

Dr Clare comments: "Understanding how the bats exist within the ecosystem is vital to our conservation goals."

The research is published today [Thursday 3 March] in the journal Molecular Ecology.


Contact: Caroline Clancy
University of Bristol

Related biology news :

1. Research links 29 genome regions with common form of inflammatory bowel disease
2. Study of nutrition, Alzheimers links hampered by research approach
3. Gene links to anorexia found by Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia researchers
4. Research links damaged organs to change in biochemical wave patterns
5. Budding research links climate change and earlier flowering plants
6. Study links normal function of protein, not its build up inside cells, to death of neurons
7. UCI-Scripps study links cellular motors to memory
8. Sociological study links state tax credit programs to higher birth weight
9. Study links African ancestry to high-risk breast cancer
10. TGen-led studies identify genetic links to kidney disease, kidney failure
11. Scientist links increase in greenhouse gases to changes in ocean currents
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/3/2016)... LONDON , June 3, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... Transport Management) von Nepal ... ,Angebot und Lieferung hochsicherer geprägter Kennzeichen, einschließlich ... weltweit führend in der Produktion und Implementierung ... an der Ausschreibung im Januar teilgenommen, aber ...
(Date:6/2/2016)... The Weather Company , an IBM Business (NYSE: IBM ... which consumers will be able to interact with IBM Watson ... or text and receive relevant information about the product or ... long sought an advertising solution that can create a one-to-one ... valuable; and can scale across millions of interactions and touchpoints. ...
(Date:6/1/2016)... , June 1, 2016 ... in Election Administration and Criminal Identification to Boost Global ... a recently released TechSci Research report, " Global Biometrics ... Region, Competition Forecast and Opportunities, 2011 - 2021", the ... billion by 2021, on account of growing security concerns ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... June 24, 2016 , ... Researchers at ... most commonly-identified miRNAs in people with peritoneal or pleural mesothelioma. Their findings are the ... read it now. , Diagnostic biomarkers are signposts in the blood, lung fluid ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 /PRNewswire/ - FACIT ... Ontario biotechnology company, Propellon Therapeutics ... development and commercialization of a portfolio of first-in-class ... Epigenetic targets such as WDR5 represent an exciting ... significantly in precision medicine for cancer patients. Substantial ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) is pleased to announce 24 new Young ... cancer. Members of the Class of 2016 were selected from a pool of ... More About the Class of 2016 PCF Young Investigators ... ... ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... STACS DNA Inc., the sample tracking ... Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, has joined STACS DNA as a Field Application Specialist. ... Jocelyn Tremblay, President and COO of STACS DNA. “In further expanding our capacity as ...
Breaking Biology Technology: