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Snacking during hibernation? Winter bat diet and prey availabilities, a case study from Iskar Gorge, Bulgaria

Nia Toshkova https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4217-5653; Katrin Dimitrova https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1166-7519; Mario Langourov https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6756-3420; Boyan Zlatkov https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5704-1634; Rostislav Bekchiev https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6143-0184; Toshko Ljubomirov https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3202-3309; Eberhard Zielke; Radost Angelova; Rossina Parvanova; Tzvetan Simeonov https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9007-7084; Nikolay Simov https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1626-2964

2 May 2023 · volume 45 · (issue 5) · pp. 125–142 · PDF [full text]

Abstract: Better empirical knowledge of how bat and insect phenology are influenced by seasonal environmental conditions and how this may affect fitness is essential in the face of changing climatic conditions. We examined the winter diet of the Schreibers’ bent-winged bat Miniopterus schreibersii (Kuhl, 1817) from Razhishkata Cave, Balkan Mountains, Bulgaria during four sampling periods in the winter of 2021 (end of January – end of March). We used a combination of DNA metabarcoding and a microscope-based morphological analyses of bats droppings. Additionally, we tracked prey availability in the studied area using insect flight interception traps (FIT). The species was actively feeding outside the cave and did not use the cave fauna. Our samples indicate a shift in the winter diet of the bats throughout the studied periods. Even though Diptera was the most abundant order of insects during two of the study periods, bats were preying predominantly on Lepidoptera and Hymenoptera. The metabarcoding also supported this with data for the presence of insects with diurnal activity in the samples. The temperature loggers showed a strong correlation between the outside temperature and the temperature in the cave where the colony was located, probably impacting the activity patterns of the bats. To our knowledge, this is the first study of winter bat activity and diet in Bulgaria. Our research can serve as a potential framework for studying winter bat activity and insect activity during this sensitive period.

Keywords: bat guano, DNA metabarcoding, insects, Miniopterus schreibersii, winter activity, winter diet

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Supplementary materials [5]

Document title: Raw data collected during the microscope-based morphological analysis used in the study
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Document title: Validated and raw metabarcoding data used in the study
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Document title: Flight interception traps data (February-March) presenting all the invertebrate orders recorded in the study
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Document name: 000513000452023-03.xlsx

Document title: Flight interception traps data (February-March) listing the model groups recorded in the study
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MIME type: application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.spreadsheetml.sheet
Document name: 000513000452023-04.xlsx

Document title: Air temperature data from Razhishkata Cave recorded in the study and ERA5 temperature data for Lakatnik region
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Toshkova N., Dimitrova K., Langourov M., Zlatkov B., Bekchiev R., Ljubomirov T., Zielke E., Angelova R., Parvanova R., Simeonov Tz., Simov N. 2023 Snacking during hibernation? Winter bat diet and prey availabilities, a case study from Iskar Gorge, Bulgaria. Historia naturalis bulgarica 45: 125–142.

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