Dietary overlap and seasonality in three species of mormoopid bats from a tropical dry forest.Mol Ecol 2015; 24(20):5296-307ME
Competing hypotheses explaining species' use of resources have been advanced. Resource limitations in habitat and/or food are factors that affect assemblages of species. These limitations could drive the evolution of morphological and/or behavioural specialization, permitting the coexistence of closely related species through resource partitioning and niche differentiation. Alternatively, when resources are unlimited, fluctuations in resources availability will cause concomitant shifts in resource use regardless of species identity. Here, we used next-generation sequencing to test these hypotheses and characterize the diversity, overlap and seasonal variation in the diet of three species of insectivorous bats of the genus Pteronotus. We identified 465 prey (MOTUs) in the guano of 192 individuals. Lepidoptera and Diptera represented the most consumed insect orders. Diet of bats exhibited a moderate level of overlap, with the highest value between Pteronotus parnellii and Pteronotus personatus in the wet season. We found higher dietary overlap between species during the same seasons than within any single species across seasons. This suggests that diets of the three species are driven more by prey availability than by any particular predator-specific characteristic. P. davyi and P. personatus increased their dietary breadth during the dry season, whereas P. parnellii diet was broader and had the highest effective number of prey species in all seasons. This supports the existence of dietary flexibility in generalist bats and dietary niche overlapping among groups of closely related species in highly seasonal ecosystems. Moreover, the abundance and availability of insect prey may drive the diet of insectivores.