Concept: Soprano Pipistrelle
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.
Wind turbines represent a source of hazard for bats, especially through collision with rotor blades. With increasing technical development, tall turbines (rotor-swept zone 50-150 m above ground level) are becoming widespread, yet we lack quantitative information about species active at these heights, which impedes proposing targeted mitigation recommendations for bat-friendly turbine operation. We investigated vertical activity profiles of a bat assemblage, and their relationships to wind speed, within a major valley of the European Alps where tall wind turbines are being deployed. To monitor bat activity we installed automatic recorders at sequentially increasing heights from ground level up to 65 m, with the goal to determine species-specific vertical activity profiles and to link them to wind speed. Bat call sequences were analysed with an automatic algorithm, paying particular attention to mouse-eared bats (Myotis myotis and Myotis blythii) and the European free-tailed bat (Tadarida teniotis), three locally rare species. The most often recorded bats were the Common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) and Savi’s pipistrelle (Hypsugo savii). Mouse-eared bats were rarely recorded, and mostly just above ground, appearing out of risk of collision. T. teniotis had a more evenly distributed vertical activity profile, often being active at rotor level, but its activity at that height ceased above 5 ms-1 wind speed. Overall bat activity in the rotor-swept zone declined with increasing wind speed, dropping below 5% above 5.4 ms-1. Collision risk could be drastically reduced if nocturnal operation of tall wind turbines would be restricted to wind speeds above 5 ms-1. Such measure should be implemented year-round because T. teniotis remains active in winter. This operational restriction is likely to cause only small energy production losses at these tall wind turbines, although further analyses are needed to assess these losses precisely.
Conflict can arise when bats roost in human dwellings and householders are affected adversely by their presence. In the United Kingdom, the exclusion of bats from roosts can be licensed under exceptional circumstances to alleviate conflict, but the fate of excluded bats and the impact on their survival and reproduction is not well understood. Using radio-tracking, we investigated the effects of exclusion on the soprano pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus, a species that commonly roosts in buildings in Europe. Exclusions were performed under licence at five roosts in England in spring, when females were in the early stages of pregnancy. Following exclusion, all bats found alternative roosts and colonies congregated in nearby known roosts that had been used by radio-tagged bats prior to exclusion. We found no difference in roosting behaviour before and after exclusion. Both the frequency of roost switching and the type of roosts used by bats remained unchanged. We also found no change in foraging behaviour. Bats foraged in the same areas, travelled similar distances to reach foraging areas and showed similar patterns of habitat selection before and after exclusion. Population modelling suggested that any reduction in survival following exclusion could have a negative impact on population growth, whereas a reduction in productivity would have less effect. While the number of soprano pipistrelle exclusions currently licensed each year is likely to have little effect on local populations, the cumulative impacts of licensing the destruction of large numbers of roosts may be of concern.
Frequency shifts in signals of bats flying near conspecifics have been interpreted as a spectral jamming avoidance response (JAR). However, several prerequisites supporting a JAR hypothesis have not been controlled for in previous studies. We recorded flight and echolocation behavior of foraging Pipistrellus pipistrellus while flying alone and with a conspecific and tested whether frequency changes were due to a spectral JAR with an increased frequency difference, or whether changes could be explained by other reactions. P. pipistrellus reacted to conspecifics with a reduction of sound duration and often also pulse interval, accompanied by an increase in terminal frequency. This reaction is typical of behavioral situations where targets of interest have captured the bat’s attention and initiated a more detailed exploration. All observed frequency changes were predicted by the attention reaction alone, and do not support the JAR hypothesis of increased frequency separation. Reaction distances of 1-11 m suggest that the attention response may be elicited either by detection of the conspecific by short range active echolocation or by long range passive acoustic detection of echolocation calls.
Babesia vesperuginis was molecularly detected in 10% (5/48) of common pipistrelle bats ( Pipistrellus pipistrellus) in Shihezi City, Northwestern China. Interestingly, four bat ticks ( Argas vespertilionis), from Babesia DNA-positive common pipistrelle bats, were also positive for B. vesperuginis. Our findings extend the geographic range of the common pipistrelle bat as a reservoir of B. vesperuginis in Asia.