Study aims to protect ghost bats
Scientists are one step closer to ensuring the survival of the endangered Pilbara ghost bat, pictured, thanks to research conducted into their eating habits at the University of Western Australia.
The study, which also involved Curtin University and Perth Zoo, identified 32 prey species not previously recorded for the ghost bat, at a time when fewer than 10,000 of the animals are left in the wild.
The decline in numbers has been attributed to environmental factors including climate change, habitat loss, and competition for prey from introduced species.
UWA researcher Alba Arteaga said the ghost bat was a difficult species to study in the wild without disturbing it.
“The study combined two non-invasive collection methods to determine their dietary range,” she said.
“The first method used prey food remains collected from disused mine sites and analysed the DNA of ghost bat faecal pellets.
“We discovered the ghost bat diet in the Pilbara region consists primarily of small mammal and bird species, with a lesser contribution from reptiles — geckos, skinks and amphibians.”
UWA School of Biological Sciences Adjunct Professor Peter Mawson said the findings had important implications for conservation efforts and to increase understanding of the elusive mammal.
“The ghost bat is becoming increasingly difficult to collect data on, with its numbers diminishing and its adverse response to disturbance meaning we have to be very careful not to disturb it when collecting data,” he said.
“Determining the prey species inventory of ghost bats in the Pilbara region will be very important in the long-term conservation management of the animal and the viability of its population.”
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