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Seasonal dietary niche contraction in coexisting Neotropical frugivorous bats (Stenodermatinae)

Cite this dataset

Shipley, Jeremy Ryan; Twining, Cornelia (2020). Seasonal dietary niche contraction in coexisting Neotropical frugivorous bats (Stenodermatinae) [Dataset]. Dryad.


Tropical dry forests are characterized by punctuated seasonal precipitation patterns that drive primary production and the availability of fruits, seeds, flowers, and insects throughout the year. In environments in which the quantity and quality of food resources varies seasonally, consumers should adjust their foraging behavior to maximize energy intake while minimizing overlap with competitors during periods of low food availability. Here, we investigated how the diets of frugivorous bats in tropical dry forests of NW Mexico varied in response to seasonal availability and how this affected dietary overlap of morphologically similar species. We performed stable isotope analyses to understand temporal and interspecific patterns of overall isotopic niche breadth, trophic position, and niche overlap in the diet of six frugivorous species of closely related New World Leaf-nosed Bats (family Phyllostomidae, subfamily Stenodermatinae). We estimated seasonal changes in resource abundance in two complementary ways: 1) vegetative phenology based on long-term remote-sensing data, and 2) observational data on food availability from previously published insect and plant fruiting surveys. In all species, there was a consistent pattern of reduced isotopic niche breadth during periods of low food availability. However, patterns of niche overlap varied between morphologically similar species. Overall, results from our study and others suggest that seasonal food availability likely determines overall dietary niche breadth in Phyllostomidae and that despite morphological specialization, it is likely that other mechanisms, such as opportunistic foraging and spatiotemporal niche segregation may play a role in maintaining coexistence rather than simply dietary displacement.


Collected from museum specimens during 1972 and 1973 Colima Expeditions, curated at Sam Noble Museum of Natural History, see manuscript for more details on location. These are the first toenail cross sections.