Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Barbastelle bat uses a sneaky hunting strategy to catch its prey

Date:
August 23, 2010
Source:
University of Bristol
Summary:
Like a stealth fighter plane, the barbastelle bat uses a sneaky hunting strategy to catch its prey. Biologists combined three cutting-edge techniques to uncover the secret of this rare bat's success.

Like a stealth fighter plane, the barbastelle bat uses a sneaky hunting strategy to catch its prey. A team of researchers from the University of Bristol combined three cutting-edge techniques to uncover the secret of this rare bat's success.

Related Articles


Every night a battle between bats and their insect prey rages above our heads as bats call and listen for the echoes of their dinner. Many moths have developed a special anti-bat defence; unlike us, they can hear the ultrasonic calls of bats and avoid an attack with evasive flight.

Until recently, it seemed that these moths had outmanoeuvred bats in this evolutionary arms race, but researchers from Bristol's School of Biological Sciences have discovered that one special bat species (Barbastella barbastellus) has an unexpected counterstrategy to this defence: whispering.

The barbastelle bat is a very successful hunter which eats large numbers of moths. However, the researchers did not know whether most of these moths were earless and thus unable to hear predators approaching, or whether the bats had found a way to catch moths that could hear them coming.

While previous studies could only determine the types of insects the bats had eaten (beetles, flies, moths and so on), researcher Matt Zeale developed a method using a new set of genetic markers to identify the species of those insects. This established for the first time that the barbastelle almost exclusively preys on moths that have ears.

In order to find out why the barbastelle can catch such moths when other bats cannot, the researchers then measured how well moths can detect different bat species by recording the activity of the nerve in the moth's ear while tracking the position of flying bats at the same time. This happened in several locations around Bristol including a graveyard in Clifton.

Dr Hannah ter Hofstede said: "Recording from the ear of a moth in the field was a real challenge but it yielded some amazing results. Whereas moths can detect other bats more than 30 m away, the barbastelle gets as close as 3.5 m without being detected."

The researchers then analysed the barbastelle's echolocation calls and found that they are up to 100 times quieter than those of other bats.

Dr Holger Goerlitz said: "We modelled detection distances for bats and moths and found that by whispering, the barbastelle can hear the echo from an unsuspecting moth before the moth becomes aware of the approaching bat. This advantage, however, comes at the cost of reduced detection range, similar to us trying to navigate in the dark using a lighter instead of a spotlight."

The barbastelle bats' strategy is successful as it enables them to catch moths that would normally fly away and to avoid competition by feeding on prey that other bats find much more difficult to catch.

Such success is unusual, Dr Goerlitz said: "It's a rare case in evolution that a predator wins the arms-race with its prey because the predator only loses its dinner, but the prey loses its life."

The research is published August 19 in Current Biology. It was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Natural Environment Research Council, the NERC Biomolecular Analysis Facilities, the Mammals Trust UK, the Countryside Council for Wales, Natural England and Bat Conservation International.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Bristol. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Holger R. Goerlitz, Hannah M. ter Hofstede, Matt R.K. Zeale, Gareth Jones, and Marc W. Holderied. An Aerial-Hawking Bat Uses Stealth Echolocation to Counter Moth Hearing. Current Biology, August 19, 2010 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.07.046

Cite This Page:

University of Bristol. "Barbastelle bat uses a sneaky hunting strategy to catch its prey." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 August 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100819121210.htm>.
University of Bristol. (2010, August 23). Barbastelle bat uses a sneaky hunting strategy to catch its prey. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100819121210.htm
University of Bristol. "Barbastelle bat uses a sneaky hunting strategy to catch its prey." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100819121210.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) Price check on honey? Bear cub startles Oregon drugstore shoppers. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) One man is on a mission to boost the population of wolves in China's violence-wracked far west. The animal - symbol of the Uighur minority there - is under threat with a massive human resettlement program in the region. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins