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Concept: Microbat


In this paper more than 50 incidences of bats being captured by spiders are reviewed. Bat-catching spiders have been reported from virtually every continent with the exception of Antarctica (∼90% of the incidences occurring in the warmer areas of the globe between latitude 30° N and 30° S). Most reports refer to the Neotropics (42% of observed incidences), Asia (28.8%), and Australia-Papua New Guinea (13.5%). Bat-catching spiders belong to the mygalomorph family Theraphosidae and the araneomorph families Nephilidae, Araneidae, and Sparassidae. In addition to this, an attack attempt by a large araneomorph hunting spider of the family Pisauridae on an immature bat was witnessed. Eighty-eight percent of the reported incidences of bat catches were attributable to web-building spiders and 12% to hunting spiders. Large tropical orb-weavers of the genera Nephila and Eriophora in particular have been observed catching bats in their huge, strong orb-webs (of up to 1.5 m diameter). The majority of identifiable captured bats were small aerial insectivorous bats, belonging to the families Vespertilionidae (64%) and Emballonuridae (22%) and usually being among the most common bat species in their respective geographic area. While in some instances bats entangled in spider webs may have died of exhaustion, starvation, dehydration, and/or hyperthermia (i.e., non-predation death), there were numerous other instances where spiders were seen actively attacking, killing, and eating the captured bats (i.e., predation). This evidence suggests that spider predation on flying vertebrates is more widespread than previously assumed.

Concepts: Bat, Spider, Mygalomorphae, Microbat, Orb-weaver spider, Tarantula, Araneomorphae, Vesper bat


The need to develop effective management strategies for insectivorous bat populations requires an understanding of factors influencing habitat use. Availability of pest prey, such as mosquitoes is likely to be one such factor. To assess whether this is the case, we radio-tracked Vespadelus vulturnus Thomas (little forest bat), a predator of Aedes vigilax Skuse (saltmarsh mosquito), in saltmarsh and adjacent coastal swamp forest during periods of high and low Ae. vigilax abundance. When mosquito abundance in structurally-open saltmarsh was similar to the more cluttered coastal swamp forest, use of saltmarsh by V. vulturnus was disproportionately greater than its availability, with saltmarsh selected preferentially for foraging. However, at times of low Ae. vigilax abundance in saltmarsh, use of saltmarsh by V. vulturnus was reduced and all habitats were used in proportion to availability in the study area. This is the first radio-tracking study to demonstrate a shift in foraging range by an insectivorous bat species correlated with fluctuations in the distribution and abundance of a particular prey resource. The shift in foraging range by V. vulturnus, corresponding with a spatio-temporal variation in abundance of Ae. vigilax highlights the importance of mosquitoes as a dietary item. Broadscale pest control of Ae. vigilax may have ecological implications for the diet and habitat use of V. vulturnus. An adaptive management approach is proposed, whereby careful monitoring of insectivorous bat populations is recommended before and after any application of broadscale mosquito control measures. We also suggest a precautionary approach is taken such that broadscale control of mosquitoes avoids the lactation period of bats, a time when their energetic demands are greatest and when there is reduced risk of contracting mosquito-borne diseases transmitted by Ae. vigilax.

Concepts: Insect, Mosquito, Animal echolocation, Aedes, Bat, Mosquito control, Microbat, Vespadelus


Schemes designed to make farming landscapes less hostile to wildlife have been questioned because target taxa do not always respond in the expected manner. Microbats are often overlooked in this process, yet persist in agricultural landscapes and exert top-down control of crop pests. We investigated the relationship between microbats and measures commonly incorporated into agri-environment schemes, to derive management recommendations for their ongoing conservation. We used acoustic detectors to quantify bat species richness, activity, and feeding in 32 linear remnants and adjacent fields across an agricultural region of New South Wales, Australia. Nocturnal arthropods were simultaneously trapped using black-light traps. We recorded 91,969 bat calls, 17,277 of which could be attributed to one of the 13 taxa recorded, and 491 calls contained feeding buzzes. The linear remnants supported higher bat activity than the fields, but species richness and feeding activity did not significantly differ. We trapped a mean 87.6 g (±17.6 g SE) of arthropods per night, but found no differences in biomass between land uses. Wider linear remnants with intact native vegetation supported more bat species, as did those adjacent to unsealed, as opposed to sealed roads. Fields of unimproved native pastures, with more retained scattered trees and associated hollows and logs, supported the greatest bat species richness and activity. We conclude that the juxtaposition of linear remnants of intact vegetation and scattered trees in fields, coupled with less-intensive land uses such as unimproved pastures will benefit bat communities in agricultural landscapes, and should be incorporated into agri-environment schemes. In contrast, sealed roads may act as a deterrent. The “wildlife friendly farming” vs “land sparing” debate has so far primarily focussed on birds, but here we have found evidence that the integration of both approaches could particularly benefit bats.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Agriculture, Insect, Bat, Microbat, Landscape, Bats


Echolocating bats construct an auditory world sequentially by analyzing successive pulse-echo pairs. Many other mammals rely upon a visual world, acquired by sequential foveal fixations connected by visual gaze saccades. We investigated the scanning behavior of bats and compared it to visual scanning. We assumed that each pulse-echo pair evaluation corresponds to a foveal fixation and that sonar beam movements between pulses can be seen as acoustic gaze saccades. We used a two-dimensional 16 microphone array to determine the sonar beam direction of succeeding pulses and to characterize the three dimensional scanning behavior in the common pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) flying in the field. We also used variations of signal amplitude of single microphone recordings as indicator for scanning behavior in open space. We analyzed 33 flight sequences containing more than 700 echolocation calls to determine bat positions, source levels, and beam aiming. When searching for prey and orienting in space, bats moved their sonar beam in all directions, often alternately back and forth. They also produced sequences with irregular or no scanning movements. When approaching the array, the scanning movements were much smaller and the beam was moved over the array in small steps. Differences in the scanning pattern at various recording sites indicated that the scanning behavior depended on the echolocation task that was being performed. The scanning angles varied over a wide range and were often larger than the maximum angle measurable by our array. We found that echolocating bats use a “saccade and fixate” strategy similar to vision. Through the use of scanning movements, bats are capable of finding and exploring targets in a wide search cone centered along flight direction.

Concepts: Dimension, Sequence, Animal echolocation, Bat, Microbat, Common Pipistrelle, Pipistrellus, Soprano Pipistrelle


Laryngeally echolocating bats avoid self-deafening (forward masking) by separating pulse and echo either in time using low duty cycle (LDC) echolocation, or in frequency using high duty cycle (HDC) echolocation. HDC echolocators are specialized to detect fluttering targets in cluttered environments. HDC echolocation is found only in the families Rhinolophidae and Hipposideridae in the Old World and in the New World mormoopid, Pteronotus parnellii. Here we report that the hipposiderid Coelops frithii, ostensibly an HDC bat, consistently uses an LDC echolocation strategy whether roosting, flying, or approaching a fluttering target rotating at 50 to 80 Hz. We recorded the echolocation calls of free-flying C. frithii in the field in various situations, including presenting bats with a mechanical fluttering target. The echolocation calls of C. frithii consisted of an initial narrowband component (0.5±0.3 ms, 90.6±2.0 kHz) followed immediately by a frequency modulated (FM) sweep (194 to 113 kHz). This species emitted echolocation calls at duty cycles averaging 7.7±2.8% (n = 87 sequences). Coelops frithii approached fluttering targets more frequently than did LDC bats (C.frithii, approach frequency  = 40.4%, n = 80; Myotis spp., approach frequency  = 0%, n = 13), and at the same frequency as sympatrically feeding HDC species (Hipposideros armiger, approach rate  = 53.3%, n = 15; Rhinolophus monoceros, approach rate  = 56.7%, n = 97). We propose that the LDC echolocation strategy used by C. frithii is derived from HDC ancestors, that this species adjusts the harmonic contents of its echolocation calls, and that it may use both the narrowband component and the FM sweep of echolocations calls to detect fluttering targets.

Concepts: Instrument approach, Ultrasound, Frequency, Hertz, Animal echolocation, Bat, Microbat, Horseshoe bat


Echolocating bats use the time elapsed from biosonar pulse emission to the arrival of echo (defined as echo-delay) to assess target-distance. Target-distance is represented in the brain by delay-tuned neurons that are classified as either “heteroharmonic” or “homoharmormic.” Heteroharmonic neurons respond more strongly to pulse-echo pairs in which the timing of the pulse is given by the fundamental biosonar harmonic while the timing of echoes is provided by one (or several) of the higher order harmonics. On the other hand, homoharmonic neurons are tuned to the echo delay between similar harmonics in the emitted pulse and echo. It is generally accepted that heteroharmonic computations are advantageous over homoharmonic computations; i.e., heteroharmonic neurons receive information from call and echo in different frequency-bands which helps to avoid jamming between pulse and echo signals. Heteroharmonic neurons have been found in two species of the family Mormoopidae (Pteronotus parnellii and Pteronotus quadridens) and in Rhinolophus rouxi. Recently, it was proposed that heteroharmonic target-range computations are a primitive feature of the genus Pteronotus that was preserved in the evolution of the genus. Here, we review recent findings on the evolution of echolocation in Mormoopidae, and try to link those findings to the evolution of the heteroharmonic computation strategy (HtHCS). We stress the hypothesis that the ability to perform heteroharmonic computations evolved separately from the ability of using long constant-frequency echolocation calls, high duty cycle echolocation, and Doppler Shift Compensation. Also, we present the idea that heteroharmonic computations might have been of advantage for categorizing prey size, hunting eared insects, and living in large conspecific colonies. We make five testable predictions that might help future investigations to clarify the evolution of the heteroharmonic echolocation in Mormoopidae and other families.

Concepts: Evolution, Insect, Acoustics, Animal echolocation, Bat, Sonar, Microbat, Luke Cage


External morphology is commonly used to identify bats as well as to investigate flight and foraging behavior, typically relying on simple length and area measures or ratios. However, geometric morphometrics is increasingly used in the biological sciences to analyse variation in shape and discriminate among species and populations. Here we compare the ability of traditional versus geometric morphometric methods in discriminating between closely related bat species - in this case European horseshoe bats (Rhinolophidae, Chiroptera) - based on morphology of the wing, body and tail. In addition to comparing morphometric methods, we used geometric morphometrics to detect interspecies differences as shape changes. Geometric morphometrics yielded improved species discrimination relative to traditional methods. The predicted shape for the variation along the between group principal components revealed that the largest differences between species lay in the extent to which the wing reaches in the direction of the head. This strong trend in interspecific shape variation is associated with size, which we interpret as an evolutionary allometry pattern.

Concepts: DNA, Evolution, Biology, Mammal, Bat, Flight, Flying and gliding animals, Microbat


Animal vocal communication is often diverse and structured. Yet, the information concealed in animal vocalizations remains elusive. Several studies have shown that animal calls convey information about their emitter and the context. Often, these studies focus on specific types of calls, as it is rarely possible to probe an entire vocal repertoire at once. In this study, we continuously monitored Egyptian fruit bats for months, recording audio and video around-the-clock. We analyzed almost 15,000 vocalizations, which accompanied the everyday interactions of the bats, and were all directed toward specific individuals, rather than broadcast. We found that bat vocalizations carry ample information about the identity of the emitter, the context of the call, the behavioral response to the call, and even the call’s addressee. Our results underline the importance of studying the mundane, pairwise, directed, vocal interactions of animals.

Concepts: Insect, Mammal, Communication, Microbat


Under natural conditions, animals encounter a barrage of sensory information from which they must select and interpret biologically relevant signals. Active sensing can facilitate this process by engaging motor systems in the sampling of sensory information. The echolocating bat serves as an excellent model to investigate the coupling between action and sensing because it adaptively controls both the acoustic signals used to probe the environment and movements to receive echoes at the auditory periphery. We report here that the echolocating bat controls the features of its sonar vocalizations in tandem with the positioning of the outer ears to maximize acoustic cues for target detection and localization. The bat’s adaptive control of sonar vocalizations and ear positioning occurs on a millisecond timescale to capture spatial information from arriving echoes, as well as on a longer timescale to track target movement. Our results demonstrate that purposeful control over sonar sound production and reception can serve to improve acoustic cues for localization tasks. This finding also highlights the general importance of movement to sensory processing across animal species. Finally, our discoveries point to important parallels between spatial perception by echolocation and vision.

Concepts: Ultrasound, Animal echolocation, Sound, Bat, Sonar, Microbat, Bats, Vesper bat


The 2002-3 pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) was one of the most significant public health events in recent history. An ongoing outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus suggests that this group of viruses remains a key threat and that their distribution is wider than previously recognized. Although bats have been suggested to be the natural reservoirs of both viruses, attempts to isolate the progenitor virus of SARS-CoV from bats have been unsuccessful. Diverse SARS-like coronaviruses (SL-CoVs) have now been reported from bats in China, Europe and Africa, but none is considered a direct progenitor of SARS-CoV because of their phylogenetic disparity from this virus and the inability of their spike proteins to use the SARS-CoV cellular receptor molecule, the human angiotensin converting enzyme II (ACE2). Here we report whole-genome sequences of two novel bat coronaviruses from Chinese horseshoe bats (family: Rhinolophidae) in Yunnan, China: RsSHC014 and Rs3367. These viruses are far more closely related to SARS-CoV than any previously identified bat coronaviruses, particularly in the receptor binding domain of the spike protein. Most importantly, we report the first recorded isolation of a live SL-CoV (bat SL-CoV-WIV1) from bat faecal samples in Vero E6 cells, which has typical coronavirus morphology, 99.9% sequence identity to Rs3367 and uses ACE2 from humans, civets and Chinese horseshoe bats for cell entry. Preliminary in vitro testing indicates that WIV1 also has a broad species tropism. Our results provide the strongest evidence to date that Chinese horseshoe bats are natural reservoirs of SARS-CoV, and that intermediate hosts may not be necessary for direct human infection by some bat SL-CoVs. They also highlight the importance of pathogen-discovery programs targeting high-risk wildlife groups in emerging disease hotspots as a strategy for pandemic preparedness.

Concepts: Protein, Evolution, Receptor, Severe acute respiratory syndrome, Bat, Rabies, Vero cell, Microbat