Folia Geobotanica

, Volume 50, Issue 1, pp 49–61 | Cite as

The thousand-year history of the Slovak Karst inferred from pollen in bat guano inside the Domica Cave (Slovakia)

  • Helena Svitavská-Svobodová
  • Michal Andreas
  • Václav Krištůfek
  • Jaromír Beneš
  • Jan Novák


A thousand years old 105 cm deep deposit of bat guano in the Domica Cave (southern Slovakia, Slovak Karst National Park) has been discovered for science, and three samples were analysed for pollen to identify the bats’ preferred foraging habitats and for insect remains to identify their diet. The bat species concerned, Rhinolophus euryale, is rare in the area, which lies at the northern margin of its distribution. The pollen record captured alder forests between 897–1024 AD, temperate light broad-leaved oak-hornbeam forests with Quercus cerris, Fraxinus ornus, Cornus mas and Corylus avellana between 1522–1800 AD, and almost recently willow shrubs. This pattern may, however, reflect local changes in the surrounding landscape where the bats hunted. Pollen of anemophilous taxa was underrepresented (e.g. Fagus), while entomophilous taxa were overrepresented (e.g. Fraxinus ornus, Loranthus europaeus, Acer, Agrostemma githago). The phenology of the encountered pollen taxa indicates that the bats used the Domica Cave mainly as spring and summer roosts. The pollen record further indicates that the bats prefer to forage in a forest–steppe landscape with open Pannonian broadleaved forests and humid temperate riparian environments. Today, this kind of landscape does not occur further north, which may explain the northern limit of this bat species at the study site.

Key words

Bat diet Early Middle Ages Guano Habitats Pollen Rhinolophus euryale Slovak Karst 



We thank the Slovak Caves Administration in Liptovský Mikuláš (Slovakia) for allowing us to take samples and carry out our research. We gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic (grant project LC06066). We also wish to thank the Institute of Botany, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, which supported this study as part of the long-term research-development project RVO 67985939, and the Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia (grant 138/2010/P). We also wish to thank František Krahulec for his valuable remarks, Pim van der Knaap for improving the language of an earlier version of this paper, Marcel Uhrin for his comments and literature concerning the Domica Cave system, and to Jan Wild for the design of Figure  1 .


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Copyright information

© Institute of Botany, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helena Svitavská-Svobodová
    • 1
  • Michal Andreas
    • 2
  • Václav Krištůfek
    • 3
  • Jaromír Beneš
    • 4
  • Jan Novák
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute of BotanyAcademy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicPrůhoniceCzech Republic
  2. 2.Department of Biology, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of Hradec KrálovéHradec KrálovéCzech Republic
  3. 3.Biology Centre, Academy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicInstitute of Soil BiologyČeské BudějoviceCzech Republic
  4. 4.Laboratory of Archaeobotany and Paleoecology, Department of Botany, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of South BohemiaČeské BudějoviceCzech Republic

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