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European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 57, Issue 4, pp 843–849 | Cite as

Trophic niche partitioning of cryptic species of long-eared bats in Switzerland: implications for conservation

  • Sohrab AshrafiEmail author
  • Andres Beck
  • Marianne Rutishauser
  • Raphaël Arlettaz
  • Fabio Bontadina
Original Paper

Abstract

Dietary niche partitioning is postulated to play a major role for the stable coexistence of species within a community, particularly among cryptic species. Molecular markers have recently revealed the existence of a new cryptic species of long-eared bat, Plecotus macrobullaris, in the European Alps. We studied trophic niches as well as seasonal and regional variations of diet in eight colonies of the three Plecotus species occurring in Switzerland. Faeces were collected monthly from individuals returning to roost after foraging. Twenty-one arthropod categories were recognized from the faeces. All three species fed predominantly on Lepidoptera, which made up 41%, 87% and 88% (means across colonies) of the diet composition of P. auritus, P. macrobullaris and P. austriacus, respectively. The occurrence of numerous fragments of both diurnal and flightless insects in the diet of P. auritus (but rarely in the diet of the other two species) indicates that this species mostly gleans prey from substrates. P. austriacus and P. macrobullaris are more typical aerial feeders. The latter two species have narrow trophic niches, whilst P. auritus has a much broader diet. Comparison of intraspecific and interspecific niche overlaps in P. auritus and P. macrobullaris in sympatry suggests dietary niche partitioning between these two species. In contrast, the high similarity of the trophic niches of P. austriacus and P. macrobullaris, associated with a typical parapatric distribution, indicates competitive exclusion. The best conservation measures are preservation and restoration of habitats offering a high abundance of moths, the major prey of the three Plecotus species.

Keywords

Cryptic species Niche partitioning Niche breadth Niche overlap Plecotus Switzerland 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank A. Ehrenbold and P. Jud for their support during the field and laboratory work. We are also grateful to F. Abadi and J. Goudet for their help with the data analysis. We extend warm thanks to G. Jones and two anonymous reviewers who reviewed previous drafts of this paper and helped with valuable comments to improve it. Alice Buhayer kindly improved the English. Field work was carried out under licence of the respective cantonal authorities.

Supplementary material

10344_2011_496_MOESM1_ESM.doc (64 kb)
Table S1 Number of long-eared bats (n = 251; 137 P. auritus; 73 P. macrobullaris; 41 P. austriacus) mist-netted at the entrance to maternity roosts in six parapatric (separate roosts) and two sympatric (mixed roosts) populations in Valais (Swiss uplands) and Argovia (Swiss lowlands). P. aur P. auritus, P. mac P. macrobullaris and P. aus P. austriacus (DOC 64 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sohrab Ashrafi
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Andres Beck
    • 2
  • Marianne Rutishauser
    • 1
  • Raphaël Arlettaz
    • 1
  • Fabio Bontadina
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Division of Conservation BiologyUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.SWILD–Urban Ecology & Wildlife ResearchZurichSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Natural ResourcesUniversity of TehranKarajIran

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