Bulletin of the National Speleological Society - ISSN 0146-9517
Volume 34 Number 2: 49-54 - April 1972

A publication of the National Speleological Society

Bats as Primary Producers in an Ecosystem
Roy Horst


An ecological system has developed in an abandoned mine near Alamos, Sonora, Mexico. This "cavern" contains a permanent bat colony of Glassophega soricina, Natalus mexicana, and during part of the year, Leptonycteris nivalis. A population of troglophilic cockroaches (Periplaneta americana?) also resides in the cavern, subsisting entirely on bat guano and moribund bats. The cave crab Pseudothelthusa sonoriensis is also present, feeding on guano, decomposing bats, and cockroaches.The frog Rana pipiens also occurs in moderate numbers and feeds primarily on cockroaches. The tadpoles feed on the plant life in the guano-enriched pool within the cavern entrance. Movement of these secondary species between the cave and the outside is minimal. Finally, predators enter and remove animals from the system but make no meaningful contribution to the energy content of the system. The energy expenditure of the bats (resulting in guano deposition) appears to be the primary and only significant support of the entire system.

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