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HomeSci-TechLittle GPS tags uncover the secret life of desert bats

Little GPS tags uncover the secret life of desert bats

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Researchers with the help of miniaturized satellite-based tags have revealed that during drier periods desert bats must fly further and longer to fulfill their nightly needs.

Researchers used 1g GPS devices to reconstruct the movement of yellow-winged bats, one of two false vampire bats occurring in Africa and one of the few desert bats large enough to carry this innovative technology.

“GPS tags have seen up to now a limited use with insectivorous bats due to weight constraints and low success in data collection — we achieved great results in tracking such a light species,” said Irene Conenna, a PhD candidate at the University of Helsinki and the lead author of the study published in the journal — Movement Ecology.

“Bats are some of the most successful desert mammals. Powered flight allows them to efficiently track scarce resources and their nocturnal lifestyle buffers them from the baking sun. However, they still struggle to find enough resources during the drier periods of the year,” said Ricardo Rocha, one of the co-authors of the paper.

The study was conducted in Sibiloi National Park, Northern Kenya, along the shores of Lake Turkana, the world’s largest desert lake. Researchers placed GPS loggers in 29 bats, 15 in the rainy season and 14 in the dry and, for one week.

Their whereabouts were recorded every 30 to 60 minutes every night. This revealed that during dry periods bats used larger home ranges and had extended activity periods, potentially to compensate for a shortage in food resources.

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