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Who’s for dinner? Determining bat dietary preferences utilising high-throughput sequencing genetic analyses

Burgar, J., Haile, J., Houston, J., Murray, D., Craig, M., Stokes, V. and Bunce, M. (2012) Who’s for dinner? Determining bat dietary preferences utilising high-throughput sequencing genetic analyses. In: Ecological Society of Australia, Annual Conference, 3 - 7 December, Melbourne, Australia.


Background/question/methods: Diet studies are crucial in understanding species ecology; however, they are often limited in that very few provide detailed accounts of prey species consumed, particularly for bats. Traditionally, bat dietary studies relied upon morphological identification of prey remains in stomach contents, faeces or from remains discarded under feeding sites. Analysis of faecal matter is preferred as this non-invasive method explicitly captures the proportions of protein ingested from different types of prey. Recent advances in molecular technology, such as high-throughput sequencing (HTS), enable detailed prey identification from faecal samples to genus and species. Within the context of south-western Australia’s biodiversity hotspot, we were the first Australian study to utilise HTS, comparing dietary preferences of eight species of bat, including two endemic species.

Results/conclusions: Unsurprisingly, preliminary analyses show that Lepidoptera are an important dietary component, with faecal samples from all species containing Lepidoptera. Diptera was the second most prolific prey overall, although not found as prey for all bat species. Diptera has rarely been mentioned as a dietary component for these bat species, likely as soft-bodied Diptera are not detected when morphologically teasing apart faeces. HTS provides an unprecedented level of detail into the study of bat dietary preferences and dramatically adds to our current knowledge of bat ecology. In addition, it provides an opportunity to comprehensively sample invertebrates inhabiting this biodiversity hotspot.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
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