We estimated the relative contribution of fruits and insects as sources of dietary protein in two species of Neotropical frugivorous bats (Artibeus jamaicensis and Sturnira lilium) using stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses. An insectivorous species (Pteronotus parnellii) was also included for comparison. We found constant patterns in stable carbon and nitrogen isotope composition in blood that separated the two species of frugivorous bats from the insectivorous bat. When we used these isotopic values (combined with those of dietary fruits and insects) to estimate the percent contribution of fruits and insects to the diet of the bats, we obtained different results, depending on assumptions and model adopted. We tested models using both δ15N and δ13C results simultaneously and separately and further used diet-tissue fractionation factors of 3‰ for nitrogen and 1 and 3.5‰ for carbon. We found that a carbon-based model with a diet-blood enrichment factor of 3.5‰ produced the most parsimonious results. The model estimated that A. jamaicensis and S. lilium obtained most of their protein requirements from fruits, whereas P. parnellii fed mostly on insects. No sexual or seasonal variations in the diet of the two frugivorous species were detected. We found no evidence that the diet of sexually active females differed from that of nonsexually active females in the two species of frugivorous bats. We suggest that future studies better define isotopic fractionation between diet and tissues of bats using captive rearing and controlled diets.
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Vol. 33 • No. 3