Digestive capacity predicts diet diversity in Neotropical frugivorous bats

Romeo A. Saldaña-Vázquez, Eduardo Ruiz-Sanchez, Leonel Herrera-Alsina, Jorge E. Schondube

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Predicting the diet diversity of animals is important to basic and applied ecology. Knowledge of diet diversity in animals helps us understand niche partitioning, functional diversity and ecosystem services such as pollination, pest control and seed dispersal.
There is a negative relationship between the length of the digestive tract and diet diversity in animals; however, the role of digestive physiology in determining diet diversity has been ignored. This is especially important in vertebrates with powered flight because, unlike non‐flying vertebrates, they have limitations that may constrain gut size.
Here, we evaluate the relationship between digestive capacity and diet diversity in Carollinae and Stenodermatinae frugivorous bats. These bats disperse the seeds of plants that are key to Neotropical forest regeneration.
Our results show that digestive capacity is a good predictor of diet diversity in Carollinae and Stenodermatinae frugivorous bats (R2 = 0·77).
Surprisingly, the most phylogenetically closely related species were not similar in their digestive capacity or diet diversity. The lack of a phylogenetic signal for the traits evaluated implies differences in digestive physiology and diet in closely related species.
Our results highlight the predictive usefulness of digestive physiology for understanding the feeding ecology of animals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1396-1404
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Issue number5
Early online date6 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information
Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACyT) of Mexico
JES's PAPIIT. Grant Number: IN226710


  • food quality
  • intake response
  • niche
  • null models
  • phyllostomidae


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