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.

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 August 28, 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 August 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Hoping to break the record for world's wooliest, Shaun the sheep came up 10 pounds shy with his fleece weighing over 50 pounds after being shorn for the first time in years. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) Canadian scientists looking into the very first land animals took a fish out of water and forced it to walk. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fake Dogs Scare Real Geese from Wis. Park

Fake Dogs Scare Real Geese from Wis. Park

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Parks officials in Stevens Point, Wisconsin had a fowl problem. Canadian Geese were making a mess of a park, so officials enlisted cardboard versions of man's best friend. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
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:
from the past week

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