Seasonal variations in the diet of Myotis velifer using a molecular approach



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Insectivorous bats worldwide play an essential role as predators in ecosystems and serve as pest control for agriculture businesses. Characterizing diets of specific bat species is difficult using conventional methods that cannot capture detailed dietary information. New technologies have progressed to overcome these challenges, such as high-throughput sequencing. In this study, we used metabarcoding of the cytochrome oxidase I mitochondrial gene to analyze fecal samples of Myotis velifer and provide insight into the seasonal variation of diet from a known colony located at Fort Leaton State Historic Site in Presidio, Texas. After filtering sequence reads, we recovered and analyzed 706 unique diet items (UDI) in the diet of M. velifer. We found 483 taxa (species and genus level) belonging to 11 insect orders in fecal samples from 66 bats collected from March to October 2021. Based on our analyses, M. velifer experienced seasonal variation in diet. The orders containing the most unique diet items were Diptera (n= 353), Lepidoptera (n=160), and Blattodea (n=59). We identified important insect crop pests in their diet and substantial consumption of mosquitoes. Bats captured in June experienced the highest diversity of orders in their diet during the peak maternity season. Females were more abundant than males, indicating that the historic fort may serve as an essential maternity colony.