The Ghost Bat Macroderma gigas is a large (mean mass 150 g) predatory bat of subtropical and tropical Australia. It carries its vertebrate prey to roost caves to be eaten and where remains are dropped and accumulate. Whereas the attack and feeding methods of M. gigas on mammals has been well documented, there is little comparable information relating to avian prey. Using published lists of avian prey and skeletal material collected from a modern Macroderma roost, this study examined the range of bird species eaten by this bat. From the characteristics of these birds, biases towards particular behaviour patterns were identified. Prey masses were used to determine a preferred size range for avian prey. From this information, and assessments of the damage to the bones, inferences were made regarding the capture and processing methods employed by M. gigas for birds. More than 50 species, from a broad taxonomic range, have been recorded as avian prey of the Ghost Bat. These are all essentially diurnal with the obvious exception of the Australian Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles cristatus. Species that aggregate when roosting are over-represented in the diet of the Ghost Bat. Ground-frequenting species comprise about a quarter of the prey records. Birds may be captured at most levels of the strata, from the ground to the canopy, and in flight. Ghost Bats feed on a wide size range of avian prey, and although they may take animals up to about two-thirds their own mass, they have a preference for smaller birds, with almost 70% of the species having a mass less than 35 g. The most severe damage to a bird's post-cranial skeleton is to the ventral side of the sternum, whereas distal appendicular elements exhibit no damage from Ghost Bat predation. The type of damage to the bones and the size of the prey is consistent with the assumption that megadermatid bats were accumulators of many avian remains now represented in Miocene and Pliocene fossil deposits at Riversleigh, Queensland.
Avian prey of the Australian Ghost Bat Macroderma gigas (Microchiroptera: Megadermatidae): prey characteristics and damage from predation
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Walter Boles; Avian prey of the Australian Ghost Bat Macroderma gigas (Microchiroptera: Megadermatidae): prey characteristics and damage from predation. Australian Zoologist 1 June 1999; 31 (1): 82–91. doi: https://doi.org/10.7882/AZ.1999.009
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