One Bat’s Waste is Another Man’s Treasure: A DNA Metabarcoding Approach for the Assessment of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Using Bat Faeces

Thomas Curran, Samuel Browett, David O'Neill, Aidan O'Hanlon, Catherine O'Reilly, Andrew Harrington, Allan D. McDevitt, Denise O'Meara

Research output: Other contribution


Arthropod populations are constantly changing due to changes in climate and the globalisation of trade and travel. Effective and diverse monitoring techniques are required to understand these changes. DNA metabarcoding has facilitated the development of a broad monitoring method to sample arthropod diversity from environmental and faecal samples. In this study, we applied DNA metabarcoding to DNA extracted from bat faecal pellets of Rhinolophus hipposideros, the lesser horseshoe bat in Ireland, a highly protected bat species of conservation concern in Europe. From as few as 24 bat faecal pellets, we detected 161 arthropod species, spanning 11 orders, including 38 pest species of which five were determined to be priority pests, highlighting important ecosystem services. We also report the identification 14 species not previously reported in Ireland, but upon further investigation found that many of these are likely misidentified due to inadequacies in the genetic reference database. For the first time, we were able to use non-invasively collected bat samples to examine the role of sex in the diet of bats and found that the male and female diets did not differ significantly. However, sampling location did explain variation within the diet, highlighting how landscape features influence arthropod composition and diversity. We discuss the current limitations of the methodology in Ireland, how these can be overcome in future studies, and how this data can be used for biodiversity monitoring and informing conservation management of protected bat species.</jats:p>
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Publication statusPublished - 07 Jan 2022

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