We studied the effect of habitat type and prey availability on the foraging decisions of the Mediterranean horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus euryale), a species specialized for cluttered environments. We modeled seasonal habitat selection using radiotelemetry in relation to prey availability in a heterogeneous landscape, determined seasonal diet and prey selection, and used geographic information system data to characterize the landscape surrounding 10 breeding colonies in order to assess the radiotracking results at the population level. Although R. euryale typically has been associated with woodland, our results suggest that the existence of edge habitat, created by semicluttered structures such as hedgerows and woodland edges, was a significant factor in the choice of foraging areas by these bats. Edge habitat was associated with meadows and pastures, creating a landscape highly suited to moths, the preferred prey of R. euryale. In the study area, however, moths were evenly distributed among habitat types; therefore, distribution of moths cannot explain the preference of these bats for semicluttered habitats. The results of our study are consistent with the presumed origin of R. euryale in an edge-rich ecosystem (i.e., the savannahs of northern Africa) and establish a new paradigm for how this species uses habitat. This new paradigm, which might also apply to other members of the genus in Europe, should prompt reconsideration of the presumed habitat requirements for this species, and should be incorporated into the conservation policies for the Mediterranean horseshoe bat.
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