MOVEMENT ECOLOGY OF THE MEXICAN FISH-EATING BAT, MYOTIS VIVESI
Wilkinson, Gerald S
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Foraging behavior is influenced by the distribution of prey in time and space and the presence of conspecifics. Echolocating bats, which advertise their behavior while vocalizing, provide a unique opportunity for understanding how an organism interacts with conspecifics and the environment to find food. Here I use GPS tracking combined with on-board recording to investigate the foraging movements of lactating Mexican fish-eating bats, Myotis vivesi, in the Gulf of California, Mexico, over a 5-year period. In Chapter 1, I assessed five alternative methods for behavioral state segmentation of GPS tracked foraging paths using on-board audio for validation. While most methods perform well, hidden-Markov model segmentation showed the highest accuracy at predicting foraging movement. In Chapter 2, I evaluated habitat selection across multiple scales for fish-eating bats foraging in the Midriff Islands Region in the Gulf of California. Foraging site use at large scales is most predictive and is associated with dynamic (chlorophyll concentration) and static variables (ocean depth, sea floor slope) consistent with known tidal upwelling regions. In Chapter 3, I examine the function of in-flight social calls recorded from roughly half of all tagged individuals during their foraging flights. Calls contained spectral differences among individuals, were associated with the ends of flights as bats return to their roost, and increased in occurrence with pup age, consistent with directive calls used to communicate with mobile pups. In Chapter 4, I explore how prey distribution impacts social behavior and foraging movements. On-board audio reveals that conspecifics are present during commuting and foraging and playback experiments demonstrate an attraction to foraging call sequences. In collaboration with several colleagues I combined these findings with data from four other bat species ranging in diet and habitat type. Taken together, bat species that frequently encounter conspecifics, such as Myotis vivesi, have ephemeral prey and variable flights (e.g. duration and foraging site location), whereas bats that forage solitarily have predictable or non-shareable prey, such as a congener Myotis myotis, show less variability in their flights. Overall, these results provide new insights into the foraging dynamics and social behavior of bats.