Using DNA metabarcoding for simultaneous inference of common vampire bat diet and population structure

Kristine Bohmann*, Shyam Gopalakrishnan, Martin Nielsen, Luisa dos Santos Bay Nielsen, Gareth Jones, Daniel G. Streicker, M. Thomas P. Gilbert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)
302 Downloads (Pure)


Metabarcoding diet analysis has become a valuable tool in animal ecology; however, co-amplified predator sequences are not generally used for anything other than to validate predator identity. Exemplified by the common vampire bat, we demonstrate the use of metabarcoding to infer predator population structure alongside diet assessments. Growing populations of common vampire bats impact human, livestock and wildlife health in Latin America through transmission of pathogens, such as lethal rabies viruses. Techniques to determine large scale variation in vampire bat diet and bat population structure would empower locality- and species-specific projections of disease transmission risks. However, previously used methods are not cost-effective and efficient for large scale applications. Using blood meal and faecal samples from common vampire bats from coastal, Andean and Amazonian regions of Peru, we showcase metabarcoding as a scalable tool to assess vampire bat population structure and feeding preferences. Dietary metabarcoding was highly effective, detecting vertebrate prey in 93.2% of the samples. Bats predominantly preyed on domestic animals, but fed on tapirs at one Amazonian site. In addition, we identified arthropods in 9.3% of samples, likely reflecting consumption of ectoparasites. Using the same data, we document mitochondrial geographic population structure in the common vampire bat in Peru. Such simultaneous inference of vampire bat diet and population structure can enable new insights into the interplay between vampire bat ecology and disease transmission risks. Importantly, the methodology can be incorporated into metabarcoding diet studies of other animals to couple information on diet and population structure. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1050-1063
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Ecology Resources
Issue number5
Early online date19 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2018


  • diet analyses
  • ecological genetics
  • environmental DNA
  • mammals
  • predator–prey interactions
  • wildlife management


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