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Friday, January 13, 2012

Bat monitoring in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua

We are learning a lot about the forests of Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. At night, when other things are quiet, bats are busy and we are monitoring the bat populations in different areas in the forest. The past couple of years, we have counted on volunteers Lukas Betthauser and Florian Schmid to manage the bat study, among the more ambitious nature studies in Nicaragua. Here are some images from the bats we have seen in our monitoring program.
Albino short-tailed fruit bat, Carollia perspicillata. Photo by Florian Schmid. 
An albino bat seems quite unlikely, given that most bats rely on stealth to catch their victim, or so we have been led to think. In fact, many bats enjoy the good life, consuming fruits and nectar and other things that don't run away when forewarned. The short-tailed fruit bat (also known as Seba's short-tailed bat) is one of those, and it only makes sense that an albino could survive in this species. The light color of this albino would alert predators to his presence, but would not affect his own prey, as the name suggests. Perhaps this albino guy was a little less lucky with the insects, but the 50-100 species of fruit, pollen and nectar would not have avoided him.

The roles in nature filled by bats may be quite diverse. They may disperse fruit, pollenate plants, and control populations of small animals. Some bats eat fish, others eat birds and other bats. There are dozens of species in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve and they help sustain the populations of many other species groups. It's not easy to batwatch, but if you accompany our monitoring team, you will see the bats up close and personal. They are some of the more enignmatic animals of the forest, and suprisingly charismatic when seen from near.
By mist netting in different parts of the reserve, we are gathering information on the habitat use by the bats. We can see strong distinctions in the bat communities according to the way humans impact the forest. Bat communities in the deep forest, far from houses and deforestation, are considerably different than in other places. 
Short-tailed fruit bat is being held by Florian. Photo by Jayne Richards.
Florian and a volunteer measure several parts of a bat. Photo by Jayne Richards. 
Florian extracts a bat from the mist net. Photo by Jayne Richards. 
Each bat in the study is measured before being released into the wild again. Photo by Jeffrey McCrary.

This is the first orange-throated bat (Lampronycteris brachyotis) captured in our studies in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Photo by Jayne Richards.

In our research on bats, we are hoping to determine how bats and humans interact. For instance, we want to know whether the bat populations differ according to the land use patterns in different parts of the Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. For instance, some bats, such at the orange-throated bat, have only been found in the deepest forest. The bats we have recorded here are in the following list.

Saccopteryx bilineata (Greater Sac-winged Bat)

Noctilio leporinus (Greater Bulldog bat)

Pteronotus parnellii (Parnell's Mustached Bat)

Micronycteris minuta (White-bellied Big-eared Bat)

Lampronycteris brachyotis (Yellow-throated Big-eared Bat)

Phyllostomus discolor (Pale Spear-nosed Bat)

Phyllostomus hastatus (Greater Spear-nosed Bat)

Glossophaga soricina (Pallas's Long-tongued Bat)

Glossophaga leachii (Gray Long-tongued Bat)

Glossophaga commissarisi (Commissaris's Long-tongued Bat)

Carollia subrufa (Gray Short-tailed bat)

Carollia sowelli (Sowell's Short-tailed bat)

Carollia perspicillata (Seba's Short-tailed Bat)

Sturnira lilium (Little Yellow-shouldered Bat)

Artibeus lituratus (Great Fruit-eating Bat)

Artibeus intermedius (Leaf-nosed bat)

Artibeus jamaicensis (Jamaican fruit bat)

Artibeus inopinatus (Honduran Fruit-eating Bat)

Artibeus phaeotis (Pygmy Fruit-eating bat)

Uroderma bilobatum (Tent-making Bat)

Uroderma magnirostrum (Brown Tent-making Bat)

Platyrrhinus helleri (Heller's Broad-nosed Bat)

Centurio senex (Wrinkle-faced Bat)

Desmodus rotundus (Common Vampire Bat)

Myotis elegans (Elegant Myotis)

Rhogeessa tumida (Black-winged Little Yellow Bat)

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