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Keywords:

  • bats;
  • Chiroptera;
  • foraging;
  • Polynesia;
  • Pteropus tonganus;
  • Tonga

ABSTRACT

Although flying foxes (fruit bats in the genus Pteropus) in continental forests often fly between scattered resources, little is known about their ranging behavior among islands. The inhospitable water matrix that surrounds the food patches (islands) in archipelagos may prevent flying foxes from tracking resources as efficiently as their counterparts on larger landmasses do. Our aim in this study was to determine whether the abundance of foraging flying foxes (Pteropus tonganus) reflected food availability on islands in the Vava‘u archipelago of Tonga, regardless of island size and isolation. Overall, food availability was the strongest determinant of flying fox abundance, and spatial aspects of the islands (land area within 10 km) had only a small influence. Food availability appears to regulate flying fox abundance only when food resources are low, but when food sources are plentiful, flying fox abundance may be high or low. These results provide indirect evidence that flying foxes are able to track food resources efficiently in an archipelago, and the water matrix that surrounds the food patches (islands) is not a strong deterrent for foraging animals.