MOLECULAR ANALYSIS OF THE DIET OF PARASTRELLUS HESPERUS, THE AMERICAN PARASTRELLE
Demere, Krysta Dawn
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The objective of this study was to use a molecular approach to analyze the diet of Parastrellus hesperus, the American parastrelle, and determine if the diet varied across sex and age-classes. I collected guano pellets from a total 147 P. hesperus from May - July 2015 over nine nights in Big Bend National Park. A fragment of the cytochrome c oxidase gene was sequenced from the fecal pellets of 79 individuals and the identity of prey items was inferred from DNA reference databases. Using conservative molecular identification criteria I assigned molecular operational taxonomic units to eight orders, 28 families, 36 genera and 27 species of arthropods of which two orders and 20 families contain new prey items for P. hesperus. Significant variation in the diet was found between males and females. No dietary differences were observed between the age-classes or across female reproductive condition.