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, 8 (10), e77183
eCollection

Mosquito Consumption by Insectivorous Bats: Does Size Matter?

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Mosquito Consumption by Insectivorous Bats: Does Size Matter?

Leroy Gonsalves et al. PLoS One.

Abstract

Insectivorous bats have often been touted as biological control for mosquito populations. However, mosquitoes generally represent only a small proportion of bat diet. Given the small size of mosquitoes, restrictions imposed on prey detectability by low frequency echolocation, and variable field metabolic rates (FMR), mosquitoes may not be available to or profitable for all bats. This study investigated whether consumption of mosquitoes was influenced by bat size, which is negatively correlated with echolocation frequency but positively correlated with bat FMR. To assess this, we investigated diets of five eastern Australian bat species (Vespadelus vulturnus Thomas, V. pumilus Gray, Miniopterus australis Tomes, Nyctophilus gouldi Tomes and Chalinolobus gouldii Gray) ranging in size from 4-14 g in coastal forest, using molecular analysis of fecal DNA. Abundances of potential mosquito and non-mosquito prey were concurrently measured to provide data on relative prey abundance. Aedes vigilax was locally the most abundant mosquito species, while Lepidoptera the most abundant insect order. A diverse range of prey was detected in bat feces, although members of Lepidoptera dominated, reflecting relative abundance at trap sites. Consumption of mosquitoes was restricted to V. vulturnus and V. pumilus, two smaller sized bats (4 and 4.5 g). Although mosquitoes were not commonly detected in feces of V. pumilus, they were present in feces of 55 % of V. vulturnus individuals. To meet nightly FMR requirements, Vespadelus spp. would need to consume ~600-660 mosquitoes on a mosquito-only diet, or ~160-180 similar sized moths on a moth-only diet. Lower relative profitability of mosquitoes may provide an explanation for the low level of mosquito consumption among these bats and the absence of mosquitoes in feces of larger bats. Smaller sized bats, especially V. vulturnus, are likely to be those most sensitive to reductions in mosquito abundance and should be monitored during mosquito control activities.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1. Sampling sites within study area (inset: map of Australia indicating relative location of study area).
Maps are adapted from © OpenStreetMap contributors (http://www.openstreetmap.org/copyright). Donuts represent harp trapping locations along Daleys Point and Strohms fire trails in Bouddi National Park. Star represents location of sea cave in which Miniopterus australis individuals were trapped in 2011.
Figure 2
Figure 2. Nightly Aedes vigilax abundance.
Aedes vigilax abundance during spring and neap tides.
Figure 3
Figure 3. Nightly insect abundance.
Insect abundance during spring and neap tides.
Figure 4
Figure 4. Bat diets.
Frequency of occurrence of each insect taxa in the diets of the five insectivorous bats (i.e., percentage of individuals of a species that consumed each insect taxa).

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Grant support

Funding for this research was provided by the New South Wales Environmental Trust (http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/grants?/envtrust.htm). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
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