Efficiency of facultative frugivory in the nectar-feeding bat Glossophaga commissarisi: the quality of fruits as an alternative food source

Detlev H. Kelm, Juliane Schaer, Sylvia Ortmann, Gudrun Wibbelt, John R. Speakman, Christian C. Voigt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Citations (Scopus)


The efficiency of food exploitation correlates positively with the extent of dietary specialization. Neotropical nectar-feeding bats (Glossophaginae) have one of the most specialized diets among mammals, as floral nectar constitutes a sugar-rich and highly digestible but protein and fiber depleted food source. However, dietary constraints, such as a temporary scarcity of nectar, or protein demands may sometimes require the uptake of alternative food items. We investigated the influence of a diet switch from nectar to fruit on intestinal morphology, body mass, and energy budget in the nectar-feeding bat Glossophaga commissarisi and quantified feeding efficiency. We hypothesized that these nectar specialists depend on a constant supply of nectar, if they were lacking the ability for morphological and physiological plasticity in response to a fiber-rich diet. Although capable of harvesting infructescences of Piper hispidum, G. commissarisi was less efficient in extracting energy from fruits (48% digestive efficiency of total fruit energy content) than from nectar (c. 99% digestive efficiency). The intestinal morphology and organ masses did not change after bats were switched from nectar to fruits. Captive bats exhibited lower daily energy expenditures and flight activity when feeding on fruits than during nectarivory. Possibly, this may have been a deliberate regulation to balance reduced feeding efficiency, or simply the consequence of extended digestive pauses. The low digestibility of Piper, in combination with slow digestion and the bats' inability for morphological and physiological plasticity may cause nectar-feeders to reduce their maximum energy expenditure when feeding on fruits. We argue that although fruits may substitute for nectar, they may cause restricted maximum energy assimilation compared with nectar.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)985-996
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology. B, Biochemical, Systemic, and Environmental Physiology
Issue number8
Early online date2 Jul 2008
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2008


  • glossophaga
  • digestive efficiency
  • frugivory
  • nectarivory
  • nutrient analysis
  • doubly-labeled water
  • soricina phyllostomidae
  • phenotypic flexibility
  • Rousettus-aegyptiacus
  • energy-requirements
  • CO2 production
  • diet quality
  • organ size
  • body-water
  • nitrogen


Dive into the research topics of 'Efficiency of facultative frugivory in the nectar-feeding bat Glossophaga commissarisi: the quality of fruits as an alternative food source'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this