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