Bats’ heart rate in flight sheds light on survival strategies across seasons : Animals : Nature News
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Bats’ heart rate in flight sheds light on survival strategies across seasons : Animals : Nature News

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behaviour and the University of Konstanz have discovered the internal energy dynamics of bats in flight, a breakthrough that will surely take wildlife research to a new level.

For the first time, scientists have measured the heart rates of male noctule bats during their nocturnal migrations, and have also observed seasonal changes in energy use that could have huge implications for understanding these mysterious creatures.

Pulse of the Night: How Scientists Track Bat Heartbeats

(Photo: MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)

The study, led by Lara Keicher, involved attaching tiny heart rate transmitters weighing less than a gram to bats. They transmitted the bats’ heartbeats, which were then recorded by a radio receiver.

Well, the real challenge was keeping up with the bats as they circled at high speed on their nightly hunts.

As part of the study, scientists chased bats in mid-flight in a light aircraft and took heart rate measurements for over an hour during the flight, providing insight into the bats’ daily energy expenditure and how they manage it.

The results show that male white noctule bats use up to 42 percent more energy in summer compared to spring. Consumption varies by season.

Seasonal changes are crucial for survival and overcoming fluctuations in climate and food availability.

Read also: White Nose Syndrome: Devastating Disease Discovered in Chinese Bats

One step away from understanding

The results also have implications beyond forest bats. The study sheds light on bats’ energy needs and how they meet them over the years, helping scientists predict how the animals will fare in the face of climate change.

This information is extremely important because bats play an important role in ecosystems as pollinators and defenders against pests. It will therefore be extremely important in the context of nature conservation efforts.

The work, part of Keicher’s doctoral thesis, further expands knowledge about bat physiology but also points to some of the efforts scientists will make to understand nature.

The researchers hope that as they continue to analyze the data, they will be able to answer more questions about the bats’ nutritional needs and whether they can find enough food throughout the year to support their vigorous flights.

The work on bat heart rates in flight is a remarkable achievement combining cutting-edge technology with bold fieldwork, opening up entirely new perspectives in wildlife research and providing important insights that will help ensure the survival of these magnificent creatures in an increasingly changing world.

How can we protect the bat population?

To protect the bat population, several approaches are necessary. Any educational and awareness campaigns can greatly change perceptions and dispel myths about bats, contributing to a greater appreciation of their importance to ecology.

Another key requirement for bats is the creation of natural habitats, mainly river valleys and urban green areas. The quest to learn from these winged creatures creates the need for scientific research and monitoring of bat populations.

But there is also room for urban development: respecting bat space and reducing light pollution, providing small, nature-friendly spaces within cities, and combating diseases such as white-nose syndrome through systematic management and actions to mitigate disease dynamics in bat populations.

Finally, donating time or volunteering with organizations working to protect bats will contribute to effective conservation strategies for these key species. All of these activities can help ensure the health and longevity of bat populations around the world.

Related article: Bats and Pitcher Plants: A Perfect Partnership

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