Notes from the Field: Moses Coulee

Moses Coulee

Rochelle, Jeff and I  headed out to Moses Coulee to catch bats in the shrub-steppe. The primary goal of this trip was to be guest researchers for an Urban Conservation course through the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars program. We took the students out mist-netting and showed them what it was like to be a real bat researcher. Even though time was limited, we had success the first night out! We caught two amazing species, the Canyon bat (Parastrellus hesperus) and the Townsend’s big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii). This group of students was extremely interested in many aspects of bat research: from managing museum collections, to emerging research and basic biology of bats.  

This excursion also allowed us to set up some of our new equipment, a triple high mist-net that Rochelle and I lovingly named “Monster”. We ventured out for a second night of mist-netting, “Monster” in hand,  with the optimistic hope of catching a Spotted bat (Euderma maculatum). We did not succeed in netting a spotted bat, but we did catch a Pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus) which was also very exciting! Overall this was a successful trip for us to see the diversity of species in a different part of the state and to help spread awareness about bat ecology, conservation and research.

 

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Notes from the field: Vendovi Island

Gearing up for this summers’ field work! Last week Sharlene, Abby, Jim and I set out to conduct a pilot survey of the bats on the Vendovi Island preserve. In collaboration with the San Juan Preservation Trust, a local non-profit land trust, we carried two nights of surveys to begin documenting the bat diversity on this 217 acre island. This was an excellent opportunity to help the trust in their broader efforts to document the biodiversity on this island preserve. It was also a valuable opportunity for me to kick start my research on the San Juan Islands, which I will be starting in July on San Juan and Orcas Island.

Over our two-night survey, we captured bats 2 of the 10 species documented to occur throughout the archipelago. Surprisingly, all of the bats we caught were males. So, is Vendovi Island a bachelor pad for bats? Our surveys were too limited to say for now. I hope to return later in the season, as maternity colonies begin to form to assess whether females, and other bat species also inhabit the island. For more information about the biodiversity of Vendovi Island or the San Juan Preservation Trust, click here.

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Bat of the Week: Antrozous pallidus

Common name: The Pallid bat

Photo Credit: Top: Merlin Tuttle, bottom left: American Natural History Museum, bottom center: adw.edu, bottom right: J. Scott Altenbach

Photo Credit: Top: Merlin Tuttle, bottom left: American Natural History Museum, bottom center: adw.edu, bottom right: J. Scott Altenbach

 

Where to find them: This widely distributed species, along the west coast of the North America, has a range from southern British Columbia through Montana to central Mexico.

Roosting: The pallid bat roosts in a variety of places but favors rocky outcrops.  They can be found roosting in anything from caves, rock crevices, mines, hollow trees, to buildings. At night they choose temporary roosts for resting between feeding bouts that are near, but different from, day roosts.

Diet:  A. pallidus is an insectivorous bat and has a unique foraging pattern among North American bats. They fly very close to the ground, then dip down to grab ground-dwelling prey. This bat has extremely good hearing  and the foraging strategy allows bats to use passive hearing to find prey moving on the ground. They may also make contact with the ground to grab larger prey. They also forage for insects among leaves and flowers. Additionally, they will take smaller prey in the air using echolocation. Pallid bats take larger prey back to their roosts and remove hard parts, such as wings, legs, and heads, from prey before consuming them.

Unique traits: Pallid bats use vocalizations to locate other members of their group. There are four main call types used to communicate with other individuals: a directive call  is used to find another individual, a call consisting of squabble notes tells bats how to space themselves when roosting, a buzz call used for intraspecific encounters, and ultrasonic  pulses for  orientation and communicating exploratory activity to other individuals. Another unique trait is how agile they are on the ground; they are good at crawling and climbing.

Recent research:  Barber tested if A. pallidus is able to process two different streams of auditory information simultaneously while hunting. This research shows that pallid bats behaviorally modulate their echolocation calls to be able to switch focus between two streams of auditory information, but cannot truly dually orient themselves via echolocation and listen to insect movement. (Barber et al., 2003)

Information from animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/

 

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Bat of the Week: Nyctimene albiventer

Common name: The common tube-nosed fruit bat

Photos are not of N. albiventer, but of related species. Photo credit: Right: Bernard Van Elegem, top left: Alexander Riek, bottom left: adw.edu

Photos are not of N. albiventer, but of a closely related, similar looking species. Photo credit: Right: Bernard Van Elegem, top left: Alexander Riek, bottom left: adw.edu

Where to find them: Halmahera Islands, Banda and Aru Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, Moluccas, New Guinea, Admiralty and Solomon Islands and the Cape York peninsula of Australia.

Roosting:  The common tube-nosed bat roosts individually on the trunk of trees or branches. Their wings are covered with irregularly sized and spaced, yellow spots that act as camouflage while they roost.

Diet:  N. albiventer is primarily frugivorous, however it may also eat nectar and insect remains have been found in the stomachs of a few specimens. To eat fruit, the bat will hang horizontally biting off small chunks of fruit.

Unique traits: This bat has a unique face, with long tubular nostrils and very large eyes. The function of the tubular nostrils is unclear, however they could aid in finding fruit through olfaction or be used in the production of sound as the nasal tubes stretch and vibrate when the bat emits a high whistling call.

Recent research:  N. albiventer has been of interest in various feeding studies. One study documents the fruit handling behavior in both Old World (Pteropodidae) and New World fruit bats (Phyllostomidae).  While there is variation in the fruit handling behavior among all bat in this study, N. albiventer primarily held fruit with their stomach as opposed to with their wings, like most New world fruit bats (Vandoros & Dumont 2004).

Information from eol.org

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Bat of the Week: Thyroptera tricolor

Common name: Spix’s disk winged bat

photo credit: Top left: Christian Zielger, top right: Brock Fenton, bottom left: Alan Henderson, bottom right: adw.edu

photo credit: Top left: Christian Zielger, top right: Brock Fenton, bottom left: Alan Henderson, bottom right: adw.edu

 

Where to find them: Southern Mexico to the South Eastern Edge of Brazil

Roosting: Spix’s disk winged bat roost in the partly unfurled leaves of trees of the genus Heliconia (palm). Their roost colony size is about 6. These bats change roosts often, every day or so, because as leaves mature they unfurl and are no longer habitable roosts.

Diet:  T. tricolor is an aerial insectivore, catching insects while in flight. It consumes about 1 gram of insects a day, including beetles and flies. 

Unique traits: At the base of their thumbs and ankles is a disk-shaped suction cups that they use to cling to the  Heliconia leaves in which they roost. One of these disks is strong enough to support the bat’s entire weight. They also posses “warts” on their noses, it is hypothesized these “warts” are extra sensory organs.

Recent research:  T. tricolor uses call-and response systems to find group members. Flying bats can discriminate between the inquiry and response calls emitted by group and non-group members (Chaverri 2012).

Information from http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/

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Bat of the Week: Micronycteris microtis

Common name: Common Big-eared Bat

Photo credit: Left: Christian Ziegler, top right: Inga Geipel, bottom right: Santana et al. 2011

Photo credit: Left: Christian Ziegler, top right: Inga Geipel, bottom right: Santana et al. 2011

 

Where to find them: Southern Mexico, Central America, and the northern half of South America.

Roosting: Common big-eared bats roost in small groups of 4-6 in a variety of structures, including hollow trees, logs, caves, culverts, buildings, and animal burrows.

Diet: M. microtis is a diverse animalivore that gleans all kinds of insects, from beetles to dragonflies to caterpillars. The known prey species of these bats span 12 different orders of arthropods. In addition, it has been observed to kill and eat small lizards, making it the smallest known carnivorous bat.

Unique traits: To manage the different mechanical properties of its diverse array of food, the skull shape of M. microtis appears to have rapidly evolved in order to maximize its mechanical advantage and it can easily modify its biting behavior when eating prey of different  hardness (Santana et al. 2011).

Recent research: M. microtis can use echolocation to detect and capture completely silent and motionless prey even in acoustically cluttered environments without relying on olfactory or visual signals–a feat previously thought impossible (Geipel et al. 2013).

Information from eol.org.

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Bat of the Week: Uroderma bilobatum

Common name: Peter’s tent roosting bat

Photo credit: Clockwise from top left [Rich Hoyer][http://animaldiversity.org.] [ARKiVE:Robin Monchatre] [Doris Potter]

Photo credit: Clockwise from top left [Rich Hoyer][http://animaldiversity.org.] [ARKiVE:Robin Monchatre] [Doris Potter]

  • Where to find them: Southern Mexico to Peru and SE Brazil.
  • Roosting: To make their home, these bats bite along the main vein of the large leaves of palms. This causes leaves to droop and form a “tent”, which provides shelter for the bats, particularly from rain. They roost in colonies from 2 to 59 individuals and they roost tightly clumped together.
  • Unique traits: These bats are easy to spot; they have a white stripe above and below each eye and a narrow white stripe along their back.
  • Diet: They feed primarily on fruit.
  • Recent research: Coconut palms were introduced recently in the Neotropics and  tent-making bats have developed the ability to use them for roosting. These bats seem to be expanding their range following the expanded distribution of this exotic plant species and into human-modified areas.

Information from http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/

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Bat of the Week: Sturnira lillium

 Little yellow-shouldered bat

Photo credit: Clockwise from top left [ Merlin Tuttle] [http://animaldiversity.org.] [http://mbopiparaguay.wordpress.com/murcielagos-de-paraguay/phyllostomidae/subfamilia-stenodermatinae/sturnira-lilium/] [Merlin Tuttle]
Photo credit: Clockwise from top left[ Merlin Tuttle][http://animaldiversity.org.][http://mbopiparaguay.wordpress.com/murcielagos-de-paraguay/phyllostomidae/subfamilia-stenodermatinae/sturnira-lilium/][Merlin Tuttle]
  • These bats are frugivorous, primarily feeding on fruit from the Solanaceae family.
  • These bats often roost alone, but can roost with up to 10 members.
  • Bats have scent glands on the shoulder. Some say the scent smells like iodine, others say the scent is spicy.
  • They are very important in terms of seed dispersal since they eat a variety of fruits from a variety of plant families, not limited to Solanaceae. 

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Notes from the field: La Selva

Leith, Rochelle, and an adorable Ectopylla alba

La Selva has been a fascinating place to visit. While Rochelle and I both had impressions of what a tropical rainforest would be like, we were both amazed at the lush, complex habitat and the organismal diversity that goes along with it. For me, I learned an extensive amount, not only about the ecological dynamics in the wet rainforest, but also more about the diversity of bats. We had the wonderful opportunity to work with Dr. Gloriana Chaverri.  She gave us an opportunity to study the acoustic properties of neotropical bat distress calls, (primarily phyllostomids). Then, we conducted playback experiments to investigate the how surrounding bats (intraspecifics and interspecifics) respond to these calls . In addition to our research, we were also busy working with Day’s Edge Production to produce a short film portraying the story of our research experience at La Selva. Check out the link below to see our video!   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VU3Ss0NiPPw

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The muscles behind the bite force: bat muscles in 3D

A lot of our current lab work has been focused on 3D modeling of the muscles involved in opening and closing the jaw in Neotropical leaf-nosed bats. We use iodine to stain cranial soft tissues, which enhances contrast before taking microCT scans of different bat species. This allows us to image the anatomy in great detail, and to study the muscle proportions and attachments in these very small mammals prior to dissecting the muscles. We can then segment out individual muscles and create 3D meshes that can be implemented in our bite force models! The slideshow below shows a raw, black-and-white coronal scan slice through the head of a frog-eating bat, Trachops cirrhosus, and several images of the reconstructed 3D jaw adductors.

 

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