Insectivorous bat foraging tracks the availability of aquatic flies (Diptera)

Journal of Wildlife Management
By: , and 



Rivers and their adjacent riparian zones are model ecosystems for observing cross-ecosystem energy transfers. Aquatic insects emerging from streams, for example, are resource subsidies that support riparian consumers such as birds, spiders, lizards, and bats. We collaborated with recreational river runners in Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA, to record acoustic bat activity and sample riparian insects using light traps at dusk from April through October 2017–2020. River runners collected these data on 1,428 events over 611 sampling nights at 410 sites throughout a 470-km segment of the Colorado River. We documented 71 insect taxa in light traps and recorded 19 bat species with acoustic detectors. We hypothesized that bat activity along this highly regulated river segment would be influenced primarily by variation in prey availability, as compared to other habitat descriptors. We predicted that bat activity would be positively related to aquatic insect catch rates and unrelated to terrestrial insect abundance. We fit Bayesian regression models to test these hypotheses and to quantify the relationship between bat activity and a suite of environmental variables: time of year, time of day, distance from perennial tributaries, distance from rapids, channel width, geomorphic reach, tall vegetation cover, air temperature, and lunar phase. Bat activity was positively related to the abundance of aquatic flies (Diptera), which outcompeted all other prey categories and structural habitat descriptors in our models. Within our dusk sampling period, activity of small myotis (California myotis [Myotis californicus] and Yuma myotis [M. yumanensis]) was high late in the evening and canyon bats (Parastrellus hesperus), conversely, were more active early in the evening. Activity of canyon bats varied seasonally, with peak activity in August. Our results support the hypothesis that aquatic prey, specifically aquatic flies, are key predictors of bat activity along a large, regulated river corridor and demonstrate the power of community science as a tool for ecosystem monitoring.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Insectivorous bat foraging tracks the availability of aquatic flies (Diptera)
Series title Journal of Wildlife Management
DOI 10.1002/jwmg.22414
Volume 87
Issue 5
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher The Wildlife Society
Contributing office(s) Southwest Biological Science Center
Description e22414, 15 p.
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