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lunes, 24 de septiembre de 2012

Tangled puppets by Ruby Easther

When I was a kid, I used to have two string puppets. One was a carpenter and the other a little drummer boy. They were handmade works of art that some family friend had bought me for one of my earliest birthdays. As I grew up I would carefully take out my string puppets to play with, but more often than not they would end up horrendously tangled. My Great Aunt Margaret was the best at untangling my little string puppets. Oh, if she were here now. Untangling bat nets can test the limits of anyone’s patience. My name is Ruby and I am an intern from New Zealand working on a bat inventory of Laguna Blanca with Joe. I have been here for almost four weeks now and have seen tarantulas, scorpions, owls, giant moths (that allegedly suck your blood and predict who is going to die by perching on their doorframe) cute little beetles and one huge, big Black Tegu (who we named Targaryen) all just inside our little PLT house. In addition to these weird and wonderful critters, there is no shortage of spiders. As I do not possess any arachnaphilia (yes, that is a made-up word) I have successfully made my bed a fortress against spiders – the top bunk completely encircled by a mosquito net and a foot away from the walls in all directions. I am one step from putting a moat around it. Airell, a volunteer here, suggests a moat of vinegar - apparently insects and spiders don’t like vinegar - I quite like the sound of that. But we are getting off topic, bats are where it’s at. Joe and I have been setting up 5 bat mist nets in different habitats to catch a selection of bats that reside in the reserve. So far we have caught 17 bats, 9 of those in one night! I’m not sure how much you know about bats, but it turns out they are not only strong and feisty but also spindly and easily tangled. As you may imagine, catching a bat in a bat net leaves not only a mess reminiscent of a child’s string puppet but also a sharp set of little bat teeth which wooden puppets seldom boast. The bats we have caught so far have been a pretty decent variation in size, my favourite being about the size of my thumb and weighing all of 6grams. Six grams! So tiny. We think this little guy is Molossops temminckii, the Dwarf Dog-faced Bat, but to be certain of the species of any of the bats we catch we need to remove their skulls and feed them to PLT’s flesh-eating beetles(!). Once the beetles have done their thing, we will take some measurements of the skull and identify them further from there. Anyway, I’m off to the cerrado to catch some bats, Ruby

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