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domingo, 23 de junio de 2013

Batty Research

If you didn’t know already, bats are awesome. A few quick facts on bats: Bats are the only flying mammal. The order they belong to, Chiroptera, is the second most diverse order of Mammals in the world. The order contains 20% of all Mammal species, totaling 1240 distinct species. Bats can be split into different feeding guilds based on what they like to eat: insectivores, frugivores, sanguinivores, nectivores, some even eat fish and frogs! Bats vary hugely in size, the smallest (Kitti’s Hog-nosed Bat) being about the same size as a human thumb; the largest (Giant Golden-crowned Flying Fox) is 800x the size, weighing 1.6 kilograms with a wingspan of 1.7 meters. Besides the fact that bats are extremely cool, and occasionally extremely cute, the main reason why PLT has decided to focus heavily on them is their importance as habitat engineers. Due to the huge level of diversity, bats contribute to the stability of an ecosystem in many ways. The fruit eating bats help trees disperse their seeds. The insectivorous bats help control insect populations that if left unchecked could wipe out certain species of undergrowth. The ones that drink nectar help pollinate certain flowers. And finally, conservationists rely on bats all around the world as indicator species. Because a healthy bat community relies on insects, fruits, nectar and occasionally frogs to survive, the only place you will find them are in healthy forests with an equal amount of biodiversity to the bat community. Here at Reserva Natural Laguna Blanca we trapped 14 different species and we are confident that there remain more to still be documented. There are 37 bats recorded in Paraguay and very little research has been done on them. UNTIL NOW! Annie Talbot has come to right that egregious wrong. Annie is Masters student working with University of Aberdeen to help PLT (and the rest of the scientific community) find out more about the wonderful creatures we have on site. She will be conducting general sampling across many different habitat types using mist nets. She will also use a bat recorder to document the ecolocation calls of the bats that fly around our heads but escape the nets. If you’ve ever heard that high pitch squeaking echo out from the dark night sky then you have heard a bat use sound to hunt for food. But the majority of the calls are too high frequency for the human ear to pick up. That’s the advantage of the bat recorder, it records on all frequencies and allows us to analyze and identify bats using their calls alone. The other aspect of her project is truly amazing. She has received funding for 10 GPS trackers that we will attach to the backs of a species of bat. With these trackers she will get a huge amount of data. She’ll find out about how they fly, how they navigate, how far they go in a single night, where they roost, what time they wake up and where they go to forage. This methodology has not been used in the past and so she is pioneering a brand new method for studying bat behavior. It is an honor that she chose PLT as her study location and we have high hopes for her project. Joe

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