Madagascar is home to three endemic species of Old World Fruit Bat, which are important pollinators and seed dispersers. We aimed to quantitatively assess population trajectories for the two largest of these species, the IUCN-listed ‘Vulnerable’ Eidolon dupreanum and Pteropus rufus. To this end, we conducted a longitudinal field study, in which we live-captured E. dupreanum and P. rufus, estimated species-specific fecundity rates, and generated age-frequency data via histological analysis of cementum annuli layering in tooth samples extracted from a subset of individuals. We fit exponential models to resulting data to estimate annual survival probabilities for adult bats (s A =.794 for E. dupreanum; s A =.511 for P. rufus), then applied Lefkovitch modeling techniques to infer the minimum required juvenile survival rate needed to permit longterm population persistence. Given estimated adult survival, population persistence was only possible for E. dupreanum when field-based fecundity estimates were replaced by higher values reported in the literature for related species. For P. rufus, tooth-derived estimates of adult survival were so low that even assumptions of perfect (100%) juvenile annual survival would not permit stable population trajectories. Age-based survival analyses were further supported by longitudinal exit counts carried out from 2013 to 2018 at three local P. rufus roost sites, which demonstrated a statistically significant, faintly negative time trend, indicative of subtle regional population declines. These results suggest that Malagasy fruit bat species face significant threats to population viability, with P. rufus particularly imperiled. Immediate conservation interventions, including habitat restoration and cessation of legally sanctioned bat hunting, are needed to protect Madagascar's fruit bats into the future.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- Lefkovitch matrix modeling
- Old World Fruit Bat
- Population viability analysis (PVA)