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University of the Witwatersrand (2021)

Dietary flexibility of free-living bat-eared foxes in a semi-arid environment

Molete, Letsema Mahlatse Tilly

Titre : Dietary flexibility of free-living bat-eared foxes in a semi-arid environment

Auteur : Molete, Letsema Mahlatse Tilly

Université de soutenance : University of the Witwatersrand

Grade : Master of Science (MS) 2021

Résumé partiel
Climate change is influencing environmental temperatures and rainfall, affecting species’ functioning and survival across the globe, through direct and indirect impacts. In much of southern Africa, increasing air temperatures and greater variability in rainfall are occurring, with droughts likely to become more common. An indirect consequence of these climatic changes is a change in the availability of food resources for animals. In recent years in the arid zone Kalahari, a decline in ant and termite numbers (as reflected by pitfall traps) has been associated with starvation and reduced reproductive output in aardvarks (Orycteropus afer) and pangolins (Smutsia temminckii), both specialist feeders on ants and termites (myrmecophagous mammals). Bat-eared foxes (Otocyon megalotis) are also myrmecophagous mammals found in the Kalahari and other semi-arid and arid regions of eastern and southern Africa. Bat-eared foxes alter the structure of vegetation when digging for prey and control the termite populations in an area by consuming large numbers of these insects. Bat-eared foxes also are known to influence the dynamics of disease in an ecosystem by being a vector to several viruses. Comparable to aardvarks, their preferred prey is the Northern harvester termite (Hodotermes mossambicus). However, unlike aardvarks and pangolins, bat-eared foxes have been shown to have a much more generalist diet, and feed on other invertebrates as well as plants, and even reptiles and small mammals. It is established that animals with a generalist diet are likely to be better off in changing environments than are specialist feeders

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