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.
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.
Echolocating bats have excellent spatial memory and are able to navigate to salient locations using bio-sonar. Navigating and route-following require animals to recognize places. Currently, it is mostly unknown how bats recognize places using echolocation. In this paper, we propose template based place recognition might underlie sonar-based navigation in bats. Under this hypothesis, bats recognize places by remembering their echo signature - rather than their 3D layout. Using a large body of ensonification data collected in three different habitats, we test the viability of this hypothesis assessing two critical properties of the proposed echo signatures: (1) they can be uniquely classified and (2) they vary continuously across space. Based on the results presented, we conclude that the proposed echo signatures satisfy both criteria. We discuss how these two properties of the echo signatures can support navigation and building a cognitive map.
Passive acoustic sensing has emerged as a powerful tool for quantifying anthropogenic impacts on biodiversity, especially for echolocating bat species. To better assess bat population trends there is a critical need for accurate, reliable, and open source tools that allow the detection and classification of bat calls in large collections of audio recordings. The majority of existing tools are commercial or have focused on the species classification task, neglecting the important problem of first localizing echolocation calls in audio which is particularly problematic in noisy recordings. We developed a convolutional neural network based open-source pipeline for detecting ultrasonic, full-spectrum, search-phase calls produced by echolocating bats. Our deep learning algorithms were trained on full-spectrum ultrasonic audio collected along road-transects across Europe and labelled by citizen scientists from www.batdetective.org. When compared to other existing algorithms and commercial systems, we show significantly higher detection performance of search-phase echolocation calls with our test sets. As an example application, we ran our detection pipeline on bat monitoring data collected over five years from Jersey (UK), and compared results to a widely-used commercial system. Our detection pipeline can be used for the automatic detection and monitoring of bat populations, and further facilitates their use as indicator species on a large scale. Our proposed pipeline makes only a small number of bat specific design decisions, and with appropriate training data it could be applied to detecting other species in audio. A crucial novelty of our work is showing that with careful, non-trivial, design and implementation considerations, state-of-the-art deep learning methods can be used for accurate and efficient monitoring in audio.
- Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society
- Published about 7 years ago
While sound is a signal modality widely used by many animals, it is very susceptible to attenuation, hampering effective long-distance communication. A strategy to minimize sound attenuation that has been historically used by humans is to use acoustic horns; to date, no other animal is known to use a similar structure to increase sound intensity. Here, we describe how the use of a roosting structure that resembles an acoustic horn (the tapered tubes that form when new leaves of plants such as Heliconia or Calathea species start to unfurl) increases sound amplification of the incoming and outgoing social calls used by Spix’s disc-winged bat (Thyroptera tricolor) to locate roosts and group members. Our results indicate that incoming calls are significantly amplified as a result of sound waves being increasingly compressed as they move into the narrow end of the leaf. Outgoing calls were faintly amplified, probably as a result of increased sound directionality. Both types of call, however, experienced significant sound distortion, which might explain the patterns of signal recognition previously observed in behavioural experiments. Our study provides the first evidence of the potential role that a roost can play in facilitating acoustic communication in bats.
White-nose syndrome (WNS) of bats, caused by the fungus previously known as Geomyces destructans, has decimated populations of insectivorous bats in eastern North America. Recent work on fungi associated with bat hibernacula uncovered a large number of species of Geomyces and allies, far exceeding the number of described species. Communication about these species has been hindered by the lack of a modern taxonomic evaluation, and a phylogenetic framework of the group is needed to understand the origin of G. destructans and to target closely related species and their genomes for the purposes of understanding mechanisms of pathogenicity. We addressed these issues by generating DNA sequence data for the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region, nuclear large subunit (LSU) rDNA, MCM7, RPB2, and TEF1 from a diverse array of Geomyces and allies that included isolates recovered from bat hibernacula as well as those that represent important type species. Phylogenetic analyses indicate Geomyces and allies should be classified in the family Pseudeurotiaceae, and the genera Geomyces, Gymnostellatospora, and Pseudogymnoascus should be recognized as distinct. True Geomyces are restricted to a basal lineage based on phylogenetic placement of the type species, Geomyces auratus. Thus, G. destructans is placed in genus Pseudogymnoascus. The closest relatives of Pseudogymnoascus destructans are members of the Pseudogymnoascus roseus species complex, however, the isolated and long branch of P. destructans indicates that none of the species included in this study are closely related, thus providing further support to the hypothesis that this pathogen is non-native and invasive in eastern North America. Several conidia-producing isolates from bat hibernacula previously identified as members of Pseudeurotium are determined to belong to the genus Leuconeurospora, which is widespread, especially in colder regions. Teberdinia hygrophila is transferred to Pseudeurotium as Pseudeurotium hygrophilum, comb. nov., in accordance with the one name per fungus system of classification, and two additional combinations are made in Pseudogymnoascus including Pseudogymnoascus carnis and Pseudogymnoascus pannorum. Additional sampling from other regions of the world is needed to better understand the evolution and biogeography of this important and diverse group of fungi.
Echolocating bats are known to produce terminal buzz calls during pursuit and capture of airborne prey, however the use of buzz calls while drinking on the wing has not been previously investigated. In this study I recorded the first empirical evidence that bats produce terminal phase buzz calls while drinking on the wing. Every drinking pass recorded during this study was characterized by a terminal buzz which bats emitted immediately prior to touching the water surface with their mouth. The characteristic frequency (the frequency at the end or flattest portion of the pulse) of echolocation call sequences containing drinking buzzes varied from 25-50kHz, suggesting multiple bat species present at the study site emit buzzes while drinking on the wing. As feeding buzz calls appear to be ubiquitous among echolocating bat taxa, the prevalence of drinking buzzes clearly warrants further investigation. Drinking buzzes could potentially be used to document rates of drinking by bats in the same way that feeding buzzes are used to infer foraging activity.
Major roads can reduce bat abundance and diversity over considerable distances. To mitigate against these effects and comply with environmental law, many European countries install bridges, gantries or underpasses to make roads permeable and safer to cross. However, through lack of appropriate monitoring, there is little evidence to support their effectiveness. Three underpasses and four bat gantries were investigated in northern England. Echolocation call recordings and observations were used to determine the number of bats using underpasses in preference to crossing the road above, and the height at which bats crossed. At gantries, proximity to the gantry and height of crossing bats were measured. Data were compared to those from adjacent, severed commuting routes that had no crossing structure. At one underpass 96% of bats flew through it in preference to crossing the road. This underpass was located on a pre-construction commuting route that allowed bats to pass without changing flight height or direction. At two underpasses attempts to divert bats from their original commuting routes were unsuccessful and bats crossed the road at the height of passing vehicles. Underpasses have the potential to allow bats to cross roads safely if built on pre-construction commuting routes. Bat gantries were ineffective and used by a very small proportion of bats, even up to nine years after construction. Most bats near gantries crossed roads along severed, pre-construction commuting routes at heights that put them in the path of vehicles. Crossing height was strongly correlated with verge height, suggesting that elevated verges may have some value in mitigation, but increased flight height may be at the cost of reduced permeability. Green bridges should be explored as an alternative form of mitigation. Robust monitoring is essential to assess objectively the case for mitigation and to ensure effective mitigation.
White-nose syndrome (WNS) is an emerging fungal disease of bats caused by Pseudogymnoascus destructans. Since it was first detected near Albany, NY, in 2006, the fungus has spread across eastern North America, killing unprecedented numbers of hibernating bats. The devastating impacts of WNS on Nearctic bat species are attributed to the likely introduction of P. destructans from Eurasia to naive host populations in eastern North America. Since 2006, the disease has spread in a gradual wavelike pattern consistent with introduction of the pathogen at a single location. Here, we describe the first detection of P. destructans in western North America in a little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) from near Seattle, WA, far from the previously recognized geographic distribution of the fungus. Whole-genome sequencing and phylogenetic analyses indicated that the isolate of P. destructans from Washington grouped with other isolates of a presumed clonal lineage from the eastern United States. Thus, the occurrence of P. destructans in Washington does not likely represent a novel introduction of the fungus from Eurasia, and the lack of intensive surveillance in the western United States makes it difficult to interpret whether the occurrence of P. destructans in the Pacific Northwest is disjunct from that in eastern North America. Although there is uncertainty surrounding the impacts of WNS in the Pacific Northwest, the presence of the pathogen in western North America could have major consequences for bat conservation. IMPORTANCE White-nose syndrome (WNS) represents one of the most consequential wildlife diseases of modern times. Since it was first documented in New York in 2006, the disease has killed millions of bats and threatens several formerly abundant species with extirpation or extinction. The spread of WNS in eastern North America has been relatively gradual, inducing optimism that disease mitigation strategies could be established in time to conserve bats susceptible to WNS in western North America. The recent detection of the fungus that causes WNS in the Pacific Northwest, far from its previous known distribution, increases the urgency for understanding the long-term impacts of this disease and for developing strategies to conserve imperiled bat species.
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.