Parasitization of bats by bat flies (Streblidae) in fragmented habitats
Hiller, Thomas et al. (2022), Parasitization of bats by bat flies (Streblidae) in fragmented habitats, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.8w9ghx3h5
Parasites represent a large fraction of the world’s biodiversity. They control host population sizes and contribute to ecosystem functioning. However, surveys on species diversity rarely include parasitic species. Bats often present traits favoring parasite diversity, such as large home ranges, long life spans, and large colonies. The most conspicuous bat parasites are the highly host specific, blood-sucking bat flies (Diptera: Streblidae, Nycteribiidae). Recent studies have found a direct effect of habitat alteration on the abundance of bat species. We expected, therefore, that changes in the host community in response to anthropogenic habitat modification will also result in changes in the associated parasite community. We captured bats in three different habitats in Central Panama between 2013 and 2015. We recorded information on prevalence and intensity of bat fly parasitization of the seven most commonly captured bat species. Prevalence and intensity were both significantly influenced by roost type, abundance, and host sex and age. We found that habitat variables and matrix type significantly influenced the prevalence and intensity of parasitization, while the direction of the responses were host species- and parasite species-specific. In general, roosting conditions and behavior of host bats appear to be fundamental in explaining changes in prevalence and intensity of parasitization between different habitat types, as bat flies are bound to the roost during their reproductive cycle. Habitat alterations affects next to the host community composition also the availability of possible roost structures as well as microclimatic conditions, which all three reflect in parasitization.