Echolocating bats prefer a high risk-high gain foraging strategy to increase prey profitability

Laura Stidsholt*, Antoniya Hubancheva, Stefan Greif, Holger R. Goerlitz, Mark Johnson, Yossi Yovel, Peter T. Madsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Predators that target multiple prey types are predicted to switch foraging modes according to prey profitability to increase energy returns in dynamic environments. Here, we use bat-borne tags and DNA metabarcoding of feces to test the hypothesis that greater mouse-eared bats make immediate foraging decisions based on prey profitability and changes in the environment. We show that these bats use two foraging strategies with similar average nightly captures of 25 small, aerial insects and 29 large, ground-dwelling insects per bat, but with much higher capture success in the air (76%) vs ground (30%). However, owing to the 3–20 times larger ground prey, 85% of the nightly food acquisition comes from ground prey despite the 2.5 times higher failure rates. We find that most bats use the same foraging strategy on a given night suggesting that bats adapt their hunting behavior to weather and ground conditions. We conclude that these bats use high risk-high gain gleaning of ground prey as a primary foraging tactic, but switch to aerial hunting when environmental changes reduce the profitability of ground prey, showing that prey switching matched to environmental dynamics plays a key role in covering the energy intake even in specialized predators.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere84190
StatePublished - 2023


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