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Keywords:

  • conservation;
  • dehesa;
  • habitat selection;
  • land-use change;
  • Rhinolophidae;
  • Rhinolophus

Abstract

Habitat selection was studied in two rhinolophid (Chiroptera) species, Rhinolophus mehelyi and R. euryale, breeding in the same roost in south-west Spain. The first analysis of habitat selection by R. mehelyi is provided, and the hypothesis explored that despite their close relatedness, in sympatry the two bat species showed different habitat preferences. For both species, the least preferred habitats were open habitats such as scrubland, grassland and arable land. As found elsewhere, R. euryale preferred broadleaved woodland. In addition, R. mehelyi also foraged in habitats characterized by loose trees, such as the ‘dehesa’, a semi-natural oak savanna. The progressive disappearance of the dehesa, jeopardized by land-use change, may not harm R. euryale, but could represent a threat to R. mehelyi, which would then be restricted to dense woodland, possibly competing with other bat species, including R. euryale. To conserve both species, the maintenance of a variety of wooded habitats of differing density is recommended.