FEEDING HABITS OF THE EGYPTIAN FRUIT BAT ROUSETTUS AEGYPTIACUS ON CYPRUS ISLAND: A FIRST ASSESSMENT
Rousettus aegyptiacus is the only fruit bat occurring in Europe. A dramatic, poorly understood decline was recently reported for the important population occurring on the island of Cyprus (Eastern Mediterranean). Assessing diet in this population is important to tailor appropriate conservation measures and help mitigate conflicts with farming. In this study, we present a first assessment of diet for the Cyprus population, mainly based on the occurrence of fruit remains in droppings. We analyzed 222 droppings (corresponding to 281 food items) collected at two cave roosts over three seasons. We identified 11 plant species from 8 families. Melia azedarach, Morus spp. and Ceratonia siliqua had a frequency of occurrence in diet > 0.1; Eryobotria japonica, Ficus and Arbutus andrachne were of intermediate importance, and the remaining food types were less common. Considerable differences in the occurrence frequencies of food types were detected between sites. Five out of 11 plant species found in the diet are commercially grown on Cyprus for fruit crop, but most were of secondary importance for bats. The occurrence of economically important plants in the diet was quite limited. M. azedarach, important for one of the colonies, is an alien species on Cyprus cultivated as an ornamental plant. Our data may help manage food resources to improve the population’s conservation status, but countering other threats including pesticide use and direct persecution would also be of chief importance.