Coprophagy in a cave-adapted salamander; the importance of bat guano

Source: D.B. Fenolio, G.O. Graening, B.A. Collier, J.F. Stout, Proc.- R. Soc. Lond., Biol. Sci., 2006, vol. 273, no1585, pp. 439-443
During a two year population ecology study in a cave environment, 15 Eurycea spelaea were observed ingesting bat guano.
Furthermore, E. spelaea capture numbers increased significantly during the time thatgrey bats (Myotis grisescens) deposited fresh guano. We investigated the hypothesis that this behaviour was not incidental to the capture of invertebrate prey, but a diet switch to an energy-rich detritus in an oligotrophic environment. Stable isotope assays determined that guano may be assimilated into salamander muscle tissue, and nutritional analyses revealed that guano is a comparable food source to potential invertebrate prey items. This is the first report of coprophagy in a salamander and in any amphibian for reasons other than intestinal inoculation. Because many temperate subterranean environments are often energy poor and this limitation is thought to select for increased diet breadth, we predict that coprophagy may be common in subterranean vertebrates where it is not currently recognized.
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