Tracking Disappearing Species

Researchers work through taxonomic keys to determine whether they had just caught a Hills’ horseshoe bat in Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park.Photograph by Jon Flanders / Courtesy Bat Conservation International

Disappearing species as a topic in these pages has taken many forms. Hunters of disappearing species, less so. My exposure to this topic is limited to one project that Seth participated in. But the fact that Seth also had experience on a different type of project in Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park made this article particularly of interest. Carolyn Kormann, once again, thank you:

The Hunt for a Lost Bat

The obsessive people who track down disappearing species are their own variety of rare—sparsely found across a wide geographic range, in all sorts of habitats.

In January, 2019, a multinational team of biologists set out into the rain forest of southwestern Rwanda, in search of a near-mythical bat that they thought might be extinct. Continue reading

Agave, Night, Nectar

Video (click image above): Mexican long-nosed bats drinking nectar from agave flowers at night. Credit: Bat Conservation International

Bats, agave, and half a minute of night-time feeding are in the video above, which is also embedded in this article by Janet Marinelli, published in Yale e360:

How Preserving Agave Could Help Save an Endangered Bat

Drought linked to climate change, along with overgrazing, is destroying the agave plants on which the Mexican long-nosed bat depends. Now, an initiative is trying to restore the balance between the agaves, the bats that feed on them, and the people who live on these lands.

Agaves blooming in Estanque de Norias, Mexico. KRISTEN LEAR / BAT CONSERVATION INTERNATIONAL

At the southeast tip of a large valley in the northern Sierra Madre Oriental is the small Mexican town of Estanque de Norias, some 200 miles west of the Texas border at Laredo.

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Can Bird Of The Year Be A Bat?

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People in New Zealand seem on the right side of most issues, so who are we to argue with their decision on this one? Thanks to Natasha Frost for this surprising news:

New Zealand Held a Contest for Bird of the Year. The Birds Lost.

The long-tailed bat, one of the country’s only two native land mammals, flew away with the top prize.

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — The candidates didn’t know they were running. The winner received no prize. And, at least by appearance, the champion appeared to be ineligible to compete. Continue reading

Warndon Woodlands Local Nature Reserve’s Bat-Friendly Lighting

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A common pipistrelle in flight at night. Photograph: FLPA/Alamy

IMG_1145.JPG.jpgThe title of this post is a mouthful, and is a bit of a random walk. We had not heard of Warndon Woodlands Local Nature Reserve before today. But now that we have been to their website we are happy to imagine a walk in the woods in that part of the UK. It seems a civil place, perhaps a refuge from all sorts of noise invading our lives these days:

Access: Pedestrian entrances from Parsonage Way, public footpaths through adjacent fields.

Site Facilities:
waymarked trail, public footpaths, interpretation board

Open: Pedestrian access 24hrs.

Dogs: Well behaved dogs welcome, please be aware there may be cattle in the fields nearby.

Habitat: Ancient Semi-natural Woodland, Recent Secondary Woodland, Hedgerows

Notable Wildlife: Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Bluebell, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Muntjac deer.

Other features: Original bank and ditch boundaries of the wood are still visible today.

And we are happy to read about their care for bats.Thanks to the Guardian for this small item from Worcester:

How did the bat cross the road? By going to a safe red-light area

Worcester is putting LED lighting to innovative use to protect white-light-shy locals

Bats in Worcester are to get their own red-light area. LED bulbs that emit a red glow will provide bats with a 60-metre-wide crossing area on the A4440, near to Worcester’s Warndon Woodlands nature reserve. Continue reading

Bats as Climate Change Canaries

Illustration by Edward Steed

The impact of changing weather patterns becomes particularly evident when looking at the interrelationships of animal life cycles based on season. When it comes to habitat, conservationists are winning some battles, but climate change will require longer range goals.

The Changing Climate Inside the World’s Largest Bat Colony

The migration patterns of the Bracken Cave bats are changing, adapting to the rapid rate of warming, but experts say these adaptations won’t be enough to counter the effects of climate change.

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Bats Are More Important Than You May Realize

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Since white-nose syndrome was first identified, just twelve years ago, it has spread to thirty-one states. The consequences—for bats, humans, and the U.S. economy—could be disastrous. Photograph by Michael Durham / Minden Pictures / Getty

Once you see the photo to the left, more than likely you will bypass this post. We have found this over dozens of occasions when we have posted about this animal. But think twice; read this first (thanks to J. R. Sullivan, an editor for Men’s Journal writing on the New Yorker website):

Late last summer, the biologist Mark Gumbert began flying over the farmlands of Iowa, looking for bats. As the animals foraged and moved through the night, he followed from above, circling the rivers and fields in his single-engine Cessna 172, trying his best not to lose the signals from their transmitters. Over the past decade or so, Gumbert has pioneered the study of bat migrations using radio telemetry, a method of wildlife tracking typically reserved for caribou, moose, and other big game, which tend to travel at moderate speeds. “A wolf running across the ground can move pretty quick, but they’re not going to run all night,” Gumbert told me recently. A bat, on the other hand, can be nearly impossible to trail on foot or by truck. Gumbert and his team at Copperhead Environmental Consulting were the first to observe an entire migration from the air, and they have since conducted surveys in New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia, and elsewhere. But the project that brought Gumbert to Iowa was unlike any he had undertaken before—tracking the northern long-eared batMyotis septentrionalis, a species that is among those most threatened by a dangerous fungal disease called white-nose syndrome. Continue reading

A True Guest Lecture

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Tadarida brasiliensis by Texas Co-op Power

Chan Chich is home to an array of wildlife, and coming from Arizona, many of the tropical mammals, birds, and insects are new to me. It isn’t surprising that this lodge attracts environment-enthused guests, currently two professors who study bats. Doctors Patricia Brown and Bill Rainey were kind enough to put together a miniature lecture about their bat research for the other guests and students last night.

Throughout their research, the Doctors’ goal is to change the human perspective on the creature from Dracula-esque to eco-systemically vital. This talk couldn’t have had better timing; Emily and I found two bats near our cottage the night before and knew next to nothing about them.

Even though there are 28 species of bats in Arizona, prior to the lecture, the extent of my bat knowledge was that young Bruce Wayne developed a phobia of them after falling into a well. My understanding of the creature has now expanded to the non-fictitious. Continue reading

Bats can Focus Biosonar by Stretching Mouths

While in Cockpit Country for our first expedition to Jamaica looking for the Golden Swallow, John, Justin and I watched in awe as hundreds and hundreds of bats flowed out of a cave and flew in a distinct path right by us over the course of half an hour. The slightly shoddy video below can only partly convey the sensation of having the flapping mammals zoom past in a steady stream. We’ve recently featured a couple stories of scientific developments in bat research on the blog, including wing-beat echolocation in fruit bats and singing for communication in other species.

A couple weeks ago, we learned via Discover Magazine’s science blog by Continue reading

Bats Sing Like Birds Do. Who Knew?

Pipistrellus nathusii, a species of European bat.

We recently learned that certain types of fruit bat can echolocate with their wings, and now we’re discovering that some bats also make sounds for reasons other than sonar or distress calls! Although bat songs have been recorded as much as four decades ago, more and more singing bat species are being found by scientists today, and these batsongs seem to function the same way that birdsongs do. As Robert Krulwich points out for NPR, there are very few types of mammal that sing, so it’s nice to see the club growing. Krulwich’s article continues below:

Bats produce “pings” or “clicks,” right? They make these high-pitched sounds, too high for us to hear, but when their cries ricochet off distant objects, the echoes tell them there’s a house over there, a tree in front of them, a moth flying over on the left. And so they “see” by echolocation. That’s their thing. They are famously good at it.

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Fruit Bats Can Echolocate With Wing-beats

Lesser short-nosed fruit bat. Photo by Anton Croos via National Geographic.

Bats represent an enormous amount of the mammal species alive today, but we still have a lot to learn about them. We have direct experience with a particularly large species of fruit bat called the Indian flying fox or Greater Indian Fruit Bat, and we’ve also learned earlier this year about insectivore bats in Thailand that can protect rice paddies from pests. Now we hear that fruit bats, contrary to prior scientific belief in much of the bat-biology community, can also use sonar echolocation to navigate the way insect-eating bats do. Whereas all insectivorous bats use vocal projections of sound to echolocate and find prey, most fructivorous bats have large eyes that they use to locate fruit or nectar. Three species of the fruit-eaters, however, have now been shown to use a very crude and relatively inaccurate form of echolocation using clicks created by their wingbeats. National Geographic writer Ed Yong reports:

Together with Sara Bumrungsri and Yossi Yovel, [Arjan Boonman] studied the cave nectar bat, as well as the lesser short-nosed fruit bat and the long-tongued fruit bat. He found that as the animals flew in a pitch-black tunnel, they all made audible clicks. The clicks aren’t accidents of flight. The team showed that the bats can adjust the rate of these sounds, and they click more furiously when flying in the dark than in dim light. Perhaps they actually use these noises to find their way around.

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Diurnal bats

The forest canopy of the Periyar Tiger Reserve is rich in fruit all year round and bats feel very much at home.  Out of the 119 species of bats found in India, 28 occur in Kerala. As many as six species of bat have been recorded in the Periyar :  the  flying fox, the shortnosed fruit bat,  the Great-Eastern horse-shoe bat, the Tickell’s bat, the Common yellow bat, and the Painted bat.

Bats usually roost in camps in the bamboo across the road from Cardamom County, hanging upside down all day and feeding on the abundant fruit in the area after sunset. However when I sighted this wide cloud of bats around midday on the rooftop of the restaurant, it got me wondering : what disturbed them during the day ? Continue reading