Person:
Westcott, David A.

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Westcott
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David A.
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  • Data package
    Data from: Study "Movements of the Christmas Island flying fox, Australia"
    (2022-12-13) Todd, Christopher M.; Westcott, David A.; Martin, John M.; Rose, Karrie; McKeown, Adam; Hall, Jane; Welbergen, Justin A.
    Background: Animals are important vectors for the dispersal of a wide variety of plant species, and thus play a key role in maintaining the health and biodiversity of natural ecosystems. On oceanic islands, flying-foxes are often the only seed dispersers or pollinators. However, many flying-fox populations are currently in decline, particularly those of insular species, and this has consequences for the ecological services they provide. Knowledge of the drivers and the scale of flying-fox movements is important in determining the ecological roles that flying-foxes play on islands. This information is also useful for understanding the potential long-term consequences for forest dynamics resulting from population declines or extinction, and so can aid in the development of evidence-based ecological management strategies. To these ends, we examined the foraging movements, floral resource use, and social interactions of the Critically Endangered Christmas Island flying-fox (Pteropus natalis). Methods: Utilization distributions, using movement-based kernel estimates (MBKE) were generated to determine nightly foraging movements of GPS-tracked P. natalis (n = 24). Generalized linear models (GLMs), linear mixed-effect models (LMMs), and Generalized linear mixed-effects model (GLMMs) were constructed to explain how intrinsic factors (body mass, skeletal size, and sex) affected the extent of foraging movements. In addition, we identified pollen collected from facial and body swabs of P. natalis (n = 216) to determine foraging resource use. Direct observations (n = 272) of foraging P. natalis enabled us to assess the various behaviors used to defend foraging resources. Results: Larger P. natalis individuals spent more time foraging and less time traveling between foraging patches, traveled shorter nightly distances, and had smaller overall foraging ranges than smaller conspecifics. Additionally, larger individuals visited a lower diversity of floral resources. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that smaller P. natalis individuals are the primary vectors of long-distance dispersal of pollen and digested seeds in this species, providing a vital mechanism for maintaining the flow of plant genetic diversity across Christmas Island. Overall, our study highlights the need for more holistic research approaches that incorporate population demographics when assessing a species’ ecological services.