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Trophic resource partitioning drives fine-scale coexistence in cryptic bat species
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  • Roberto Novella-Fernandez,
  • Carlos Ibáñez,
  • Javier Juste,
  • Beth Clare,
  • C. Patrick Doncaster,
  • Orly Razgour
Roberto Novella-Fernandez
University of Southampton
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Carlos Ibáñez
Estación Biológica de Doñana (CSIC)
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Javier Juste
Estacion Biologica de Donana CSIC, EBD-CSIC
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Beth Clare
Queen Mary University of London
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C. Patrick Doncaster
University of Southampton
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Orly Razgour
University of Exeter
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Abstract

Understanding the processes that enable species coexistence has important implications for assessing how ecological systems will respond to global change. Morphology and functional similarity increase the potential for competition, and therefore, co-occurring morphologically similar but genetically unique species are a good model system for testing coexistence mechanisms. We used DNA metabarcoding and High Throughput Sequencing to characterise for first time the trophic ecology of two recently-described cryptic bat species with parapatric ranges, Myotis escalerai and Myotis crypticus. We collected faecal samples from allopatric and sympatric regions and locations to describe the diet both taxonomically and functionally and compare prey consumption with prey availability. The two bat species had similar diets characterised by high arthropod diversity, particularly Lepidoptera, Diptera and Araneae, and a high proportion of prey that is not volant at night, which points to extensive use of gleaning. Diet overlap at the prey-item level was lower in locally sympatric than allopatric locations, supporting trophic shift under fine-scale sympatry. Furthermore, locally sympatric samples of M. escalerai had a marginally lower proportion of not nocturnally volant prey, suggesting that the shift in diet may be driven by a change in foraging mode. Our findings suggest that fine-scale coexistence mechanisms can have implications for maintaining broad-scale diversity patterns. This study highlights the importance of including both allopatric and sympatric populations and choosing meaningful spatial scales for detecting ecological patterns. We conclude that a combination of high taxonomic resolution with a functional approach helps identify patterns of niche shift.

Peer review status:UNDER REVIEW

08 Sep 2020Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
09 Sep 2020Assigned to Editor
09 Sep 2020Submission Checks Completed
11 Sep 2020Reviewer(s) Assigned