The conservation of cave-roosting bats in Yucatan, Mexico


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Publication Date

January 1996


Seventeen species of bats roost in the caves of Yucatan, Mexico. To identify those caves that would be important in a conservation plan for bats, 36 Yucatan caves were surveyed during a one-year study. Three criteria were considered for the identification of critical sites: a high species richness, an unusually large multispecies population size, and the presence of species of special concern (rare, threatened, or endangered). Most sites were small caves that supported only few (less than five) species, whereas a few caves supported very rich assemblages of more than nine species. The distribution of bat species among caves was highly nested, with smaller assemblages being subsets of larger communities. This distribution produced a pattern in which rare species tend to be present only in those caves with the highest species richness, whereas common species are present in all kinds of caves. A classification of the caves based on the presence or absence of bat species produced six groups. One of such groups included the largest caves, which also harboured the most diverse assemblages, contained the largest populations, and supported several species of concern. Many of these large caves are targetted for development as tourist sites, so a conservation strategy for these sites should take into consideration the social and economic pressures associated with such plans.


Bats, Caves, Ecotourism, Mexico, Nested Subsets

Document Type



Biological Conservation, Vol. 76, no. 2 (1996).