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Strategy-switching in the gaffing bat

Authors

  • V. L. G. Todd,

    1. Appin Scientific Limited, Dunbar, East Lothian, UK
    2. School of Life Sciences, Heriot-Watt University, Riccarton, Edinburgh, UK
    3. Institute of Integrative and Comparative Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
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  • D. A. Waters

    1. Institute of Integrative and Comparative Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
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Correspondence
Victoria Todd, Appin Scientific Limited, 60 Kellie Place, Dunbar, East Lothian, EH42 1GF, UK.
Email: v.todd@appinscientific.com

Abstract

Foraging in Daubenton's bats Myotis daubentonii, at two altitudinal locations along a river gradient in North Wales was investigated in relation to aerial insect density and to the density of prey on the water surface. Prey capture in Daubenton's bats consisted of aerial hawking, where prey was taken in the air, and trawling, where bats gaffed invertebrates from the water surface. Aerial hawking accounted for 86% of all prey capture attempts, despite aerial insect availability falling close to zero for much of the night. Conversely, prey density on the water surface was an order of magnitude higher than aerial prey density and increased through the night due to aquatic invertebrate drift. At the higher altitude site, M. daubentonii switched prey capture strategy to gaffing, possibly to reflect this change in prey availability on the water's surface, but at the lower altitude site, they maintained aerial hawking as the preferred strategy. The switch to gaffing may be inhibited by the significant downstream accumulation of large numbers of inedible exuviae of caddis flies, Trichoptera, at the low-altitude site, which form both acoustic clutter and increase the probability of capturing inedible prey, making foraging less efficient. These small altitudinal differences in foraging strategy should be factored into the design of future altitudinal bat foraging studies and if found to be a widespread strategy, taken into consideration by conservation planners when reviewing the habitat requirements of Daubenton's bats in river valleys within the United Kingdom.

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