The aims of this study were to investigate the diet and relative abundance of fruit bats in a lowland Malaysian rain forest and to test the hypothesis that the local assemblage structure of fruit bats varies significantly over time in relation to the availability of food. In total, 352 fruit bats of eight species were captured during 72,306 m2 mist-net hours of sampling between February 1996 and September 1999. Three species of fruit bats (Balionycteris maculata, Chironax melanocephalus, and Cynopterus brachyotis) that fed on a wide range of “steady state” and “big bang” food resources were captured continuously throughout the study period, with no significant variation in capture rates over time. In contrast, five species that fed exclusively or almost exclusively on “big bang” food resources were sampled intermittently, with significant temporal variation in the capture rates of two species (Cynopterus horsfieldi and Megaerops ecaudatus). Significant variation in the capture rates of the remaining three species (Dyacopterus spadiceus, Eonycteris spelaea, and Rousettus amplexicaudatus) could not be detected due to small sample sizes. Since ephemeral “big bang” food resources were only sporadically available within the study area and were associated with large canopy trees and strangler figs, these results suggest that food abundance, or the availability of specific food items, may be important factors limiting local fruit bat species diversity in old-growth Paleotropical rain forest. Thus, only three fruit bat species were locally resident within the forest throughout the study period. Therefore, further studies on the ranging behavior and habitat requirements of Malaysian fruit bats are required to assess the adequacy of existing reserves and protected areas.
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