We studied diet and prey selection in Mehelyi's horseshoe bats Rhinolophus mehelyi in the south-western Iberian Peninsula, during the breeding seasons of 2003, 2006, and 2007. Faecal pellets were collected individually and arthropod fragments identified to family level, where possible. Arthropod availability was assessed using Malaise traps. Selection analyses were performed using Compositional Analysis and a Chi-square goodness-of-fit test. The bulk of the diet of R. mehelyi consisted of Lepidoptera, representing more than the 80% of the consumed volume on average (excluding juveniles), and more than 90% of the average percentage occurrence. This pattern was consistent across localities. Neuroptera and Tipulidae were locally abundant. Other important prey categories were Chrysomelidae, Brachycera, and Chironomidae. ANOVA tests showed that there were no significant differences between males and females in consumed prey categories, whereas juveniles consumed significantly less Lepidoptera than adults. Lepidoptera was the first prey category in the preference rank, followed by Myrmeleontidae, Chrysopidae and Tipulidae, and all of these were consumed more than expected by chance. This work shows that R. mehelyi is a moth specialist and suggests that juveniles may acquire this strategy while gaining hunting experience. Given the similarities in echolocation call characteristics and diet in the sibling R. mehelyi and R. euryale, they may compete for trophic resources in sympatry. Nevertheless, subtle differences in wing morphology between both species are probably large enough to permit spatial resource partitioning.
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