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Nutritional consequences of a change in diet from native to agricultural fruits for the Samoan fruit bat

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The Samoan fruit bat Pteropus samoensis Peale, an endemic flying fox that inhabits the Samoan archipelago, prefers to forage on native fruit species. This species has recently been subjected to extreme population threats including hunting and severe storms, as well as large-scale habitat degradation. If habitat destruction continues at its present rate, P. samoensis may be forced to forage more within an agricultural matrix. In this study, we analyzed sixteen species of native fruits and four species of agricultural fruits for five organic components and eight minerals to test whether native fruits provided a higher quality diet or more varied diet than agricultural fruits. Within native fruits, we also focused on four species of figs, because these fruits are often considered an important food item for tropical frugivores. Overall, native fruits provided more variation and had higher average values for several nutrients than agricultural fruits. Native fruits were especially high in biologically important minerals (calcium, iron, and sodium), and provided up to 5 times more calcium, 10.5 times more iron, and 8 times more sodium than agricultural fruits. Figs were found to be an especially rich source of many nutrients, particularly for calcium. Thus, P. samoensis, a sequential specialist, may be better able to adjust its diet to obtain higher levels of minerals when consuming a variety of native fruits than when restricted to the consumption of only agricultural fruits. These findings suggest a need to preserve native habitat and to create parks to sustain the long term health and viability of P. samoensis.
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Document Type: Original Article

Publication date: August 1, 2000

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