, Volume 101, Issue 4, pp 407-415

Dietary energetics of the insectivorous Mexican free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) during pregnancy and lactation

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Abstract

Stomach content analysis of 20 pregnant (x body mass=13.4 g) and 18 lactating (x body mass=11.5 g) female Tadarida brasiliensis revealed that the diet, expressed as percent volume, consists largely of lepidopterans, coleopterans, hymenopterans, and dipterans, in decreasing order of importance. We found no significant difference in the diet of pregnant and lactating females when expressed as percent volume. However, when expressed as percent frequency, proportionately more pregnant females fed on lepidopterans, coleopterans, and dipterans than did lactating bats, and proportionately more lactating females fed on hymenopterans. We found no significant differences in the percentages of water, lean dry mass, fat, and energy density in the stomach contents of pregnant and lactating females. Water in stomach contents averaged 62.7% and fat and lean dry mass averaged 22.2% and 15.2%, respectively (expressed as percentage of wet mass); energy density averaged 31.2 kJ g−1 dry mass. This relatively high energy density of stomach contents, as compared to whole insects, can be attributed to the consumption of insects high in fat (especially flying ants) and the abdomens only of moths and beetles (other body parts being discarded). Estimates of nightly food intake increased markedly from mid- to late pregnancy, stabilized or decreased during late pregnancy, and increased again during early to mid-lactation. Average nightly feeding rate doubled from pregnancy to lactation and increased threefold during the first half of lactation. By adjusting our gravimetric estimates of nightly feeding rate upwards by 40% (based on estimates of field metabolic rate), we estimate that the average nightly energy intake of female T. brasiliensis ranges from 57 kJ day−1 in early lactation to 104 kJ day−1 in mid-lactation. These estimates represent nightly feeding rates averaging 39% and 73% of a female's body mass in the period from early to mid-lactation, respectively.