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Investigating cat predation as the cause of bat wing tears using forensic DNA analysis

Khayat, Rana OS and Grant, Robyn A and Ryan, Hazel and Melling, Louise M and Dougill, Gary and Killick, David R and Shaw, Kirsty J (2020) Investigating cat predation as the cause of bat wing tears using forensic DNA analysis. Ecology and Evolution. ISSN 2045-7758

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Abstract

Cat predation upon bat species has been reported to have significant effects on bat populations in both rural and urban areas. The majority of research in this area has focussed on observational data from bat rehabilitators documenting injuries, and cat owners, when domestic cats present prey. However, this has the potential to underestimate the number of bats killed or injured by cats. Here, we use forensic DNA analysis techniques to analyze swabs taken from injured bats in the United Kingdom, mainly including Pipistrellus pipistrellus (40 out of 72 specimens). Using quantitative PCR, cat DNA was found in two‐thirds of samples submitted by bat rehabilitators. Of these samples, short tandem repeat analysis produced partial DNA profiles for approximately one‐third of samples, which could be used to link predation events to individual cats. The use of genetic analysis can complement observational data and potentially provide additional information to give a more accurate estimation of cat predation.

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