Increased diet breadth of little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) at their northern range limit: a multimethod approach Academic Article uri icon


  • The distribution of small mammals is constrained by extreme environmental demands and variable food supplies that are commonly incurred at northern latitudes. Little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus (Le Conte, 1831)) are at the northwestern limits of their range in Alaska (USA), where environmental demands are higher and prey availability is more seasonal than elsewhere in their range. We hypothesized that the little brown bat in interior Alaska has adjusted to these constraints by broadening its foraging niche, relative to that of southern conspecifics. We analyzed arthropod fragments (microhistology) in guano to describe prey composition to order. We compared the efficacy of evaluating diet by microhistology with DNA analysis and stable isotope analysis on guano and hair. Bats consumed aerial prey such as Lepidoptera (moths) and Diptera (true flies and mosquitoes), as well as terrestrial arthropods including Araneae (spiders). Shifts in the proportion of aerial prey in the diet were closely linked to ordinal day. Values for 15N in hair indicated that bats were generalists in interior Alaska, coastal Alaska, and the Yukon (Canada), but significant outliers indicated that some individuals have distinct diets. The little brown bats flexibility in feeding strategies likely allows this species to sustain populations in arctic and subarctic regions.

published proceedings

  • Canadian Journal of Zoology

altmetric score

  • 2

author list (cited authors)

  • Shively, R., Barboza, P., Doak, P., & Jung, T. S.

citation count

  • 20

complete list of authors

  • Shively, Rachel||Barboza, Perry||Doak, Patricia||Jung, Thomas S

publication date

  • January 2018