Nutrition or Detoxification: Why Bats Visit Mineral Licks of the Amazonian Rainforest
Voigt, Christian C.
Capps, Krista A.
Dechmann, Dina K. N.
Michener, Robert H.
Kunz, Thomas H.
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CitationVoigt, Christian C., Krista A. Capps, Dina K. N. Dechmann, Robert H. Michener, Thomas H. Kunz. "Nutrition or Detoxification: Why Bats Visit Mineral Licks of the Amazonian Rainforest" PLoS ONE 3(4): e2011. (2008)
Many animals in the tropics of Africa, Asia and South America regularly visit so-called salt or mineral licks to consume clay or drink clay-saturated water. Whether this behavior is used to supplement diets with locally limited nutrients or to buffer the effects of toxic secondary plant compounds remains unclear. In the Amazonian rainforest, pregnant and lactating bats are frequently observed and captured at mineral licks. We measured the nitrogen isotope ratio in wing tissue of omnivorous short-tailed fruit bats, Carollia perspicillata, and in an obligate fruit-eating bat, Artibeus obscurus, captured at mineral licks and at control sites in the rainforest. Carollia perspicillata with a plant-dominated diet were more often captured at mineral licks than individuals with an insect-dominated diet, although insects were more mineral depleted than fruits. In contrast, nitrogen isotope ratios of A. obscurus did not differ between individuals captured at mineral lick versus control sites. We conclude that pregnant and lactating fruit-eating bats do not visit mineral licks principally for minerals, but instead to buffer the effects of secondary plant compounds that they ingest in large quantities during periods of high energy demand. These findings have potential implications for the role of mineral licks for mammals in general, including humans.