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Small GPS Backpacks Discover the Secret Life of Bats in the Desert

Yellow wings bat

Yellow wings bat. Bats are one of the most successful desert mammals. Credit: Adria Lopez-Bakels

A new study from the University of Helsinki using miniature satellite-based markings revealed that during dry periods desert bats must fly farther and longer. meet their nightly needs. According to researchers, this signals their struggle in the face of dry periods.

Wildlife monitoring has revolutionized the study of animal movement and behavior. However, tracking small, flying animals, such as desert bats, remains a challenge. Now, a new generation of miniaturized satellite-based markings provides a unique insight into the lives of these mysterious mammals.

The researchers used 1 g of GPS devices to reconstruct the movements of wings bats, one of two fake vampire bats taking place in Africa, and one of the few desert bats large enough to carry this innovative technology. "GPS tags have so far seen limited use with insect bats to limit weight and poor data collection success – we have achieved excellent results in tracking such an easy species," said Dr Irene Connaugh. candidate at the University of Helsinki and lead author of the study.

The future under climate change?

“Bats are one of the most successful desert mammals. Flight power enables them to track scarce resources efficiently, and their night life style prevents them from baking sun. However, they are still struggling to find enough resources during the driest months of the year, ”says Ricardo Rocha, one of the co-authors of the paper.

The study was conducted in Sibiloy National Park, North Kenya, along the shores of Lake Turkana, the world's largest lake. The researchers put up DVD logs in 29 bats, 15 in the rainy season and 14 in the dry and in a week. Their location was recorded every 30 to 60 minutes every night. This revealed that bats used larger homes during the dry season and have extended periods of activity, potentially to compensate for scarcity of food sources.

Bats make up approximately one fifth of all mammal species, and deserts live on more than 150 bat species. They show wide variation in morphology, foraging behavior and habitat use, making them an excellent indicator group for assessing how species respond to changes in their habitats. "The responses exhibited by bats provide important insights into the responses of other taxonomic groups," explains Kona. "These new miniaturized satellite-based tags now allow us to better understand how increased dryness affects efficiency-enhancing bats, and take us one step further in understanding the limits of arithmetic tolerance and climate change impacts," adds Cone.

The deserts around the world are getting warmer and because these warm desert creatures have to cope with even tougher conditions. "Understanding how animals cope with seasonal changes is key to understanding how they can respond to the challenges on the horizon. New technological devices, such as miniature satellite excavators, go a long way in helping us with this task. "Adds Mar Cabeza, senior author of the study, University of Helsinki.

Publication: Cohen, I., Lopez-Bautzels, A., Rocha, R., Ripper, S. & Kabeza M. Space utilization and seasonal movement of a bat bat discovered by miniature GPS loggers. Ecology movement, DOI: 10.1186 / s40462-019-0170-8

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