Rare bat rediscovered on Okinawa island


Yanbaru whiskered bat, photo by Kyoto University / Jason Preble

From Kyoto University in Japan:

Capturing of the rare Yanbaru whiskered bat

Finding is first since initial discovery 22 years ago

April 27, 2018

The critically endangered Yanbaru whiskered bat, Myotis yanbarensis, has been caught for the first time on Okinawa Island since its discovery 22 years ago. Kyoto University doctoral student Jason Preble succeeded in the capture on the night of 20 February, during a survey in the Yanbaru Forest in the north of Okinawa‘s main island.

The rare bat species was first discovered in the subtropical Yanbaru Forest in 1996, when two specimens were collected. It was later observed on a few occasions on the islands Tokunoshima and Amami-Oshima, but no sightings were reported again on Okinawa Island.

This small tree-dwelling bat, endemic to these islands, thus became a serious conservation concern and was declared ‘critically endangered’, the highest risk level, by both the Japanese Ministry of Environment and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

On 20 February 2018 at 20:05, Preble captured one male Myotis yanbarensis weighing 4.9 g and apparently in good health. Three nights later he caught a second male bat weighing 5.2 g. Upon release, he tracked these individuals using VHF transmitters. A third male was also caught four days later. The captures took place in the former United States military Northern Training Area, facilitated by a high-tech acoustic lure that broadcasts synthesized bat calls.

Moreover, Preble was able to record the bat’s echolocation call, vital data that was previously unreported.

This large area of forest was returned to Japan in December 2016, and Kyoto University’s Island Bat Research Group, led by Christian Vincenot, was among the first teams to be granted access by the Ministry of Environment, Okinawa Forestry Office, and Aha Dam authority.

The presence of the Yanbaru whiskered bat indicates that this zone, which was off limits for over a half-century, may have served as an unintended wildlife sanctuary. This discovery revives hope for conservation of this rare species, while also suggesting that Myotis yanbarensis may be range-restricted to a small part of the Yanbaru Forest and therefore may continue to be at risk of local extinction.

Extreme caution is therefore advised in the management of this area, which is currently a candidate for UNESCO Natural Heritage status. Bats are often highly sensitive to infrastructure development, as seen in the steep decline in endangered populations following the construction in 2013 of a new airport runway over bat caves on Ishigaki island, also in the Okinawan archipelago.

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Bats and primates, video


This video says about itself:

Are Bats Flying Primates?

8 April 2018

Bats are absolutely incredible animals. They’re highly unique creatures that possess the extraordinary ability of powered flight. It’s long been thought that every bat species must have descended from a common ancestor but, during the 1980s, a very interesting and controversial idea about bat evolution came to prominence; the ‘Flying Primate’ hypothesis.

Wildlife fights back against Brazilian rainforest devastation


This video, in Portuguese, is called Bat Cave Brazil 2014. It shows also other rainforest animals, like a sloth and a snake.

From the University of Salford in England:

Species make comeback 30 years after rainforest devastation

February 28, 2018

Rainforest loss is fuelling a tsunami of tropical species extinctions. However, not all is doom and gloom.

A new study, conducted in the Brazilian Amazon, suggests that ecological cataclysms prompted by the fragmentation of the forest can be reverted by the regeneration of secondary forests, offering a beacon of hope for tropical forest biodiversity across the world.

The international team of researchers found that species strongly associated with primary forest were heavily depleted after 15 years of man-made disruption including the burning and clearing of forest stands.

However, 30 years down the line, and with the regeneration of secondary regrowth, many of the species that had abandoned the area had made a comeback.

“If you compare the time periods, it is apparent that taking a long-term view is paramount to uncovering the complexity of biodiversity in human-modified landscapes”, said senior researcher Dr Christoph Meyer, lecturer in global ecology and conservation at the University of Salford.

The study measured the impacts of forest break-up of 50 species of bat (approx. 6,000 animals).

Bats comprise roughly one fifth of all mammal species and display wide variation in foraging behaviour and habitat use, making them an excellent model group for the research.

“The responses exhibited by bats offer important insights into the responses of other taxonomic groups”, says Ricardo Rocha, lead author of the study from the University of Lisbon.

“The recovery that we have documented mirrors the patterns observed for beetle and bird communities within the Amazon.

“These parallel trends reinforce the idea that the benefits of forest regeneration are widespread, and suggest that habitat restoration can ameliorate some of the harm inflicted by humans on tropical wildlife”, he adds.

The results of the current study contrast with the catastrophic faunal declines observed during a similar time window in rodent communities in the ‘forest islands’ of the Chiew Larn reservoir in Thailand.

“The recovery observed at the Amazon was mostly due to the recolonization of previously deforested areas and forest fragments by old-growth specialist bats. This recolonization is likely attributable to an increased diversity and abundance of food resources in areas now occupied by secondary forest, fulfilling the energetic requirements of a larger set of species”, explains Rocha.

However, the short-term nature of most studies has substantially impaired the capacity of researchers to properly capture the intricate time-related complexities associated with the effects of forest fragmentation on wildlife.

The Amazon study was conducted at the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project, jointly run by the Smithsonian Institute and the Brazilian Institute for Research in the Amazon.

How bats survive viruses


This video says about itself:

All About Bats for Kids: Animal Videos for Children – FreeSchool

29 October 2015

Bats may fly in the night, but there’s no reason to fear these amazing mammals! Bats are one of the most common types of mammals on the planet and live on almost every continent. Most bats eat insects, some eat fruit, some eat nectar, and a few even eat blood. They are amazing creatures: not only are they the only flying mammal, but they also use echolocation to find their food and navigate in total darkness. Bats are cool!

From ScienceDaily:

How bats carry viruses without getting sick

February 22, 2018

Bats are known to harbor highly pathogenic viruses like Ebola, Marburg, Hendra, Nipah, and SARS-CoV, and yet they do not show clinical signs of disease. In a paper published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe on February 22, scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China find that in bats, an antiviral immune pathway called the STING-interferon pathway is dampened, and bats can maintain just enough defense against illness without triggering a heightened immune reaction.

“We believe there is a balance between bats and the pathogens they carry”, says senior author Peng Zhou. “This work demonstrated that in order to maintain a balance with viruses, bats may have evolved to dampen certain pathways.”

In humans and other mammals, an immune-based over-response to one of these and other pathogenic viruses can trigger severe illness. For example, in humans, an activated STING pathway is linked with severe autoimmune diseases.

“In human history, we have been chasing infectious diseases one after another,” says Zhou, “but bats appear to be a ‘super-mammal’ to these deadly viruses.” By identifying a weakened but not defunct STING pathway, researchers have some new insight into how bats fine-tune antiviral defenses to balance an effective, but not an overt, response against viruses.

The authors hypothesize that this defense strategy evolved as part of three interconnected features of bat biology: they are flying mammals, have a long lifespan, and host a large viral reservoir. “Adaptation to flight likely caused positive selection of multiple bat innate immune and DNA damage repair genes,” Zhou says. These adaptations may have shaped certain antiviral pathways (STING, interferon, and others) to make them good viral reservoir hosts and achieve a tolerable balance.

Big fossil bat discovery in New Zealand


This video says about itself:

Fossils Reveal Giant New Species of Burrowing Bat: Vulcanops jennyworthyae

11 January 2018

Paleontologists say they’ve found the fossilized remains of a new genus and species of bat that lived in New Zealand between 19 and 16 million years ago (Early Miocene epoch).

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Giant extinct burrowing bat unearthed in New Zealand by palaeontologists

Discovery highlights the diversity of life that has been lost from the island nation

Josh Gabbatiss, Science Correspondent

Thursday 11 January 2018 18:15 GMT

Palaeontologists have discovered teeth and bones belonging to an ancient species of burrowing bat.

The species, named Vulcanops jennyworthyae, inhabited New Zealand around 16 million years ago.

Burrowing bats are a unique group of mammals only found in New Zealand.

These animals not only fly, but crawl along the ground too, and are equipped with specialised claws that enable them to do so.

Vulcanops is the biggest burrowing bat ever found – although it still only weighed around 40 grams.

The finding was described in the journal Scientific Reports.

“Burrowing bats are more closely related to bats living in South America than to others in the south-west Pacific,” said Professor Sue Hand, the first author of the study describing the new species, and a palaeontologist at the University of New South Wales.

Specifically, Prof Hand said burrowing bats such as Vulcanops are related to vampire bats.

However, unlike its blood-feeding cousins, the teeth of this new species suggest it consumed plant material as well as small creatures.

The scientists said the discovery served as a reminder of the diversity of life that has been lost from New Zealand.

“These bats, along with land turtles and crocodiles, show that major groups of animals have been lost from New Zealand”, said study co-author Professor Paul Scofield, of Canterbury Museum.

“They show that the iconic survivors of this lost fauna – the tuataras, moas, kiwi, acanthisittid wrens, and leiopelmatid frogs – evolved in a far more complex community that hitherto thought.”

Many bats used to inhabit New Zealand, but climate fluctuations are thought to have led to the ultimate demise of all but two species, which still survive today.

While the nation is still home to a diverse array of bird species, the two remaining bats are the only mammals to still inhabit the island that were not introduced by humans.