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The diet of the New Zealand long-tailed bat, Chalinolobus tuberculatus : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Masters in Zoology at Massey University, Manawatu, New Zealand
The long-tailed bat (Chalinolobus tuberculatus Forster, 1884) and the lesser short-tailed
bat (Mystacina tuberculata Gray, 1883) are both endemic and the only extanct bat species
in New Zealand (Alexander, 2001). The long-tailed bat and the short-tailed bat are
considered threatened; they are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened
Animals and the Department of Conservation (DOC) lists long-tailed bats as ‘nationally
vulnerable’, and lesser short-tailed bats as ‘nationally endangered’ (O'Donnell, Christie,
Hitchmough, Lloyd, & Parsons, 2010). Research conducted on long-tailed bats has focused
on roosting choice and behaviour with limited investigation of their diet. This leaves big gaps
in our knowledge and due to both species inhabiting exotic plantation forests there is also
the possibility for the bats to be important insect pest control agents.
Insect fragments were identified from New Zealand long-tailed bat faecal samples
collected from under known roosts and harp traps in Kinleith Forest and Pureora Forest Park
in the central North Island, New Zealand. In total 2247 fragments were mounted on slides
(1335 from Pureora and 912 from Kinleith) and 15% of these were unidentifiable (346). Over
both study sites, Diptera made up the largest percentage of the diet with 40%, Lepidoptera
comprised 24%, Coleoptera 18%, Trichoptera 0.8%, and Hymenoptera 0.36%. Whole mites
or mite remains comprised 0.8% of all fragments. Eleven fragments in total were found to
be from Lepidoptera larvae which contradicts previous observations of long-tailed bats not
eating terrestrial, non-winged insects. There were significant differences in the diet of the
bats in native forest with the bats in exotic forest, showing long-tailed bats can be flexible in
regards to the environment they live in whilst maintaining a normal diet.
The diets of the same two populations of New Zealand long-tailed bat were assessed by
using stable carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotope analysis of faeces. This is the first
instance where stable isotope analysis has been used to investigate New Zealand bat diet.
Faecal samples from a population of New Zealand long-tailed bats in a Fiordland forest and
a population of New Zealand short-tailed bats from Pureora Forest Park were also analysed
to use as a comparison. The δ13C (‰) and δ15N (‰) values of bat faeces were similar to
those of Lepidoptera, Diptera, and Coleoptera implying these are the insects eaten most
often. Only minor similarities were found between the δ13C (‰) and δ15N (‰) values of bat
faeces and those of Trichoptera, Hymenoptera, and Hemiptera implying these insects are
eaten less often. New Zealand long-tailed bats in Pureora Forest and Kinleith Forest have
opportunistic, generalist diets. There were no significant differences in the diet of the bats
in native forest with the bats in exotic forest showing bats inhabiting exotic plantation
forests can maintain a good quality diet similar to bats inhabiting native forests. There were
also no significant differences in the diet of Pureora Forest long-tailed bats and short-tailed
bats which is strange considering the bats occupy different niches. In this study by
combining physical search of faeces and stable isotope analysis, new information on the diet
of the long-tailed bat was gained. After comparison, both techniques have their merits and
that, if possible, it is best to utilise both when investigating diet.