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PLoS One. 2007 Jul 25;2(7):e672.

The perils of picky eating: dietary breadth is related to extinction risk in insectivorous bats.

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  • 1Center for North American Bat Research and Conservation, Department of Ecology and Organismal Biology, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, Indiana, United States of America.


Several recent papers evaluate the relationship between ecological characteristics and extinction risk in bats. These studies report that extinction risk is negatively related to geographic range size and positively related to habitat specialization. Here, we evaluate the hypothesis that extinction risk is also related to dietary specialization in insectivorous vespertilionid bats using both traditional and phylogenetically-controlled analysis of variance. We collected dietary data and The World Conservation Union (IUCN) rankings for 44 Australian, European, and North American bat species. Our results indicate that species of conservation concern (IUCN ranking near threatened or above) are more likely to have a specialized diet than are species of least concern. Additional analyses show that dietary breadth is not correlated to geographic range size or wing morphology, characteristics previously found to correlate with extinction risk. Therefore, there is likely a direct relationship between dietary specialization and extinction risk; however, the large variation in dietary breadth within species of least concern suggests that diet alone cannot explain extinction risk. Our results may have important implications for the development of predictive models of extinction risk and for the assignment of extinction risk to insectivorous bat species. Similar analyses should be conducted on additional bat families to assess the generality of this relationship between niche breadth and extinction risk.

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