Vol. 56, 2017

(update: 2017.6.15)

The Diet of the Cave Nectar Bat (Eonycteris spelaea Dobson) Suggests it Pollinates Economically and Ecologically Significant Plants in Southern Cambodia

Hoem Thavry1,2, Julien Cappelle2,3, Sara Bumrungsri4, Lim Thona1, and Neil M. Furey1,5,*

1Centre for Biodiversity Conservation, Room 415, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Royal University of Phnom Penh, Confederation of Russia Boulevard, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. E-mail: lim.thona@yahoo.com
2Institut Pasteur du Cambodge, Epidemiology Unit, BP983, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.E-mail: hthavry@pasteur-kh.org
3Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD), UR Animal et Gestion Intégrée des Risques (AGIRs), F-34398, Montpellier, France. E-mail:julien.cappelle@cirad.fr
4Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Prince of Songkla University, Thailand 15 Karnjanavanich Rd., Hat Yai, Songkhla 90110, Thailand. E-mail:sarabumrungsri@gmail.com
5Fauna & Flora International (Cambodia Programme), PO Box 1380, No. 19, Street 360, Boeng Keng Kong 1, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 12000. E-mail:neil.m.furey@gmail.com

(Received 17 October 2016; Accepted 12 June 2017; Communicated by Benny K.K. Chan)

Hoem Thavry, Julien Cappelle, Sara Bumrungsri, Lim Thona, and Neil M. Furey (2017) The importance of the cave nectar bat Eonycteris spelaea as a pollinator of economically significant crops and ecologically important plant species is increasingly documented, although information on the plants visited by this widely distributed bat species is currently confined to Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia. We undertook a dietary study on E. spelaea by sampling faecal rain produced by a colony in Kampot, southern Cambodia each month for one year and identifying plant taxa visited by the bats by their pollen. Our results indicate the diet of E. spelaea in Cambodia includes at least 13 plant taxa, eight of which were identified to genus or species. Pollen of Sonneratia spp.and Musa spp. had the highest mean monthly frequency at 30.9% and 16.9% respectively, followed by Oroxylum indicum (11.3%), Bombax anceps (11.2%), Parkia spp.(9.8%), Durio zibethinus (6.3%), Ceiba pentandra (6.0%) and Eucalyptus spp. (0.3%).  With one exception, all of the plant taxa recorded at our study site are also visited by the bat species in Peninsular Malaysia and Thailand, although their relative dietary contributions differ. This variation likely reflects local differences in the availability, proximity and flowering phenology of chiropterophilous plants between regions, but also suggests a reliance of Cambodian bats on species that flower continuously, coupled with periodic shifts to species that flower profusely for short periods. Only three significant colonies (> 1,000 bats) of cave-roosting pteropodids are currently known in Cambodia, all of which are in Kampot and threatened by bushmeat hunting and roost disturbance. We recommend public education and law enforcement efforts to conserve these colonies, not least because Kampot is the premier region for Cambodian durian and this crop depends on nectarivorous bats for fruit set. Protection of mangroves would also benefit durian farmers because these are an important resource for nectarivorous bat populations.

Key words: Nectarivorous bats, Caves, Plant pollination, Mangrove, Durian, Cambodia.

*Correspondence: Hoem Thavry and Neil M. Furey contributed equally to this work. E-mail: neil.m.furey@gmail.com

Zoological Studies