Article

Spatial and temporal variation in the use of supplementary food in an obligate termite specialist, the bat-eared fox

Published in: African Zoology
Volume 54, issue 1, 2019 , pages: 63–71
DOI: 10.1080/15627020.2019.1596754
Author(s): Keafon R JumbamDepartment of Zoology and Entomology, South Africa, Stéphanie PériquetDepartment of Zoology and Entomology, South Africa, Fredrik DalerumResearch Unit of Biodiversity, Spain, Aliza le RouxDepartment of Zoology and Entomology, South Africa

Abstract

The bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis) is considered a termite specialist. However, studies of its diet have been limited to indirect methods, such as scat and stomach content analyses, resulting in intraspecific dietary variations due in part to methodological differences. Because diet plays a central role in the social dynamics of these canids, we hereby contribute further to our knowledge about their dietary habits. We present 2-year data of direct observations of foraging bouts of 19 habituated bat-eared foxes in the kalahari desert of South Africa, as well as data on seasonal variation in invertebrate prey communities obtained through pitfall and sweep net trapping. Despite showing a diet breadth reflective of a specialised forager across all seasons, foxes exhibited substantial seasonal variation in diet breadth with a broader range of food categories utilised in summer compared to the other seasons. Supplementary food categories appear to not have been utilised opportunistically, but it is unclear what drove the preference for some food categories over others. A literature review indicated strong effects of local conditions on the utilisation of supplementary food across southern Africa. Our data support bat-eared foxes as obligate termite specialists but highlight that they appear to have the ability to show dietary flexibility based on both temporal and spatial variations in food abundance.

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