As a nectar feeder, the lesser long-nosed bat follows the trail of cactus blooms between Mexico and the U.S. One of the plants it also plays a major role in pollinating is agave, which gives us tequila.
Summary: Scientists studying the ‘near threatened’ tequila bat, best known for its role in pollinating the Blue Agave plant from which the drink of the same name is made from, have analyzed its DNA to help inform conservationists on managing their populations.
Native to the Americas, the tequila bat (Leptonycteris yerbabuenae) lives in caves in some of the hottest desert areas in Mexico. Given that bats are highly mobile, and that migratory species tend to mix constantly with other bat populations, it is hard for conservationists to know whether they are protecting the best sites for the tequila bats to roost.
While knowing that some tequila bat populations migrate in Mexico’s spring months to the Sonoran Desert to give birth to their pups and pollinate a variety of plants iconic to the region, including the economically important Blue Agave plant. Other tequila bat populations inhabit Southern Mexico year-round, forming large breeding colonies in the winter months.
This study aimed to help better inform conservationists of the species’ breeding and migratory patterns by determining whether the bats inhabiting Southern Mexico year-round have a similar ancestral origin to those that migrate to the Sonoran Desert.
DNA analysis was necessary to understand how historical events may have shaped current tequila bat populations. But first, an international team, comprising researchers from the University of Bristol, the Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, had to track down the elusive creatures by travelling to remote caves in Mexico to collect DNA skin samples.
Bat expert, Angelica Menchaca (PhD) from Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences who led the study, said: “Tequila bats are beautiful, especially after they arrive back from feeding as they return covered in pollen, completely yellow, a sign of how important they are to this ecosystem. They are easy to handle, not like other bat species that can be more aggressive.
“However, our expedition to the desert was not without hitches and dangers. We were often hiking in temperatures routinely exceeding 40°C and encountering desert wildlife such as rattlesnakes, scorpions, hares, reptiles and ring-tailed cats along the way.
“Once we located the bat colony, our aim was to collect DNA skin samples from the bat’s wing which heals quickly and doesn’t harm them. We would wait until the bats went out to forage at around midnight and then enter the caves that were filled with thousands of baby bats, all packed together in nurseries, waiting for their mums to return.”
Bats are subject to many threats around the world. Their populations are threatened by habitat loss, their roosts are often disturbed, and people fear them both from myths and as potential disease carriers. Bat-phobia is only increasing in our current climate. However, despite their often-negative press, bats are very valuable to ecosystems and the benefits they bring to our societies including the popular beverage tequila.
After analysing samples, the team were able to identify the bats’ mitochondrial DNA and use this to trace the maternal line of the different populations to understand the ancestral descent of the species.
Explaining the findings, Dr Menchaca added: “Contrary to current practice, our study demonstrates that the species must be managed as two conservation units (CUs) in Mexico. We have shown that tequila bat populations that establish maternity colonies in the Sonoran Desert in northern Mexico show a distinct migratory behaviour, breed during the summer, have specific habitat requirements and belong to a maternal line distinct to their southern counterparts.
“In the present context of an accelerated rate of habitat loss, increased fear of bats and decreased appreciation as ecosystem service providers, understanding how we can help support this important species survive these threats is even more relevant.
“We are studying other differences related to their behaviour and morphology that will also help us understand how these bats adapt to diverse habitats.”
Importantly, this research will be used to help inform conservation management strategies, as the tequila bat is considered “Near Threatened” by the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species.
There are few birds as charismatic or endearing as the blue-footed booby. Join James and Josh on an adventure to Isla Isabel, an island off Mexico’s Pacific coast, to understand the importance of this national park to breeding seabirds.
Along the way, we meet world-renowned chef and star of Master Chef Mexico, Betty Vázquez. By stepping into her kitchen and hearing her story, we discover the impact Isla Isabel and the blue-footed boobies have had on her culinary career.
Good News: After 25 Years of Hard Work, Mexico Recovers 20+ Seabird Species
Seabirds are the fastest declining bird group in the world—so kudos to Mexican biologists for pulling off a massive effort to reverse centuries of damage and restore seabird populations on nearly 40 islands. Their success is a gleam of hope, as well as inspiration for tackling these problems elsewhere. Find out how they did it in our full story.
Birds of Mexico, 88 species. Filmed mainly in the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas during two trips in October 2017 and 2019. Guide of both trips the amazing Eric Antonio Martínez -Mexico Birding. Photo of thumbnail: Eric Antonio.
Did you know the history of beer in Mexico dates back further than anywhere else in North America? Check out Mexican beer history and how the Vienna lager became a major influence throughout the country.
Beer brewer Grupo Modelo temporarily stops making Corona beer and other brands because the Mexican government has labelled the brewery’s business as non-essential. Grupo Modelo has eleven breweries in Mexico and exports its beers to 180 countries.
Sharks play a key role in keeping oceans healthy, but their numbers plunged by over 70% in some places around the world. The great white is still considered vulnerable, but is making a comeback thanks to stronger environmental protections. Jonathan Vigliotti gets up close and personal with them in one protected area where their population is booming for our series Eye on Earth.
MEXICO CITY — The body of a Mexican conservationist devoted to the protection of the monarch butterfly in Mexico was found on Wednesday, two weeks after he went missing, the authorities said. Homero Gómez González managed a butterfly sanctuary in the state of Michoacán, a violence-ravaged region but also the location of mountain forests where the butterflies settle every winter following a long and extraordinary migration from Canada and the USA.
In Mexico another activist who was committed to preserving the monarch butterfly has been killed. A few days ago an activist from the same butterfly sanctuary was found dead.
The 44-year-old Raúl Hernandez disappeared last week after he left the butterfly sanctuary where he worked as a guide. His body was found this weekend. He had bruises and a deep head wound.
Five days ago, the body of the founder of the butterfly sanctuary, Homero Gómez, was found in a well. He disappeared without a trace on January 13. An investigation has shown that Gómez had a blow to his head before he got into the well.
Relatives of Gómez say he was threatened because he campaigned against illegal logging. Criminal gangs in Mexico do not hesitate to use violence against people who oppose their illegal practices.
The two activists were committed to the monarch butterfly in Michoacàn state in southwestern Mexico. The insects are in danger of disappearing due to illegal logging. A sanctuary was opened in November to protect them.
Lopez Obrador, a leftist who has close ties with Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, expressed his solidarity with Assange and said he hoped the former hacker and activist is “forgiven and released” from prison.
“Hopefully consideration will be given to this, and he’s released and won’t continue to be tortured.”
Assange’s presence in London, holed up in Ecuador’s embassy and then in jail, has been a diplomatic irritation for Britain, affecting domestic politics and relations with several countries.
Corbyn, who was a guest of honor at Lopez Obrador’s inauguration in December 2018, said Assange should not be extradited to the United States “for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Mexican president calls for Julian Assange’s freedom
4 January 2020
Speaking at a press conference in Mexico City on Friday morning, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to be “pardoned and freed” from prison in Britain. Lopez Obrador called for an end to the “torture” of Assange.
“There are cables that came to light from when we were in opposition and they spoke about our struggle and I can corroborate that they are true, that is to say what is in them was accurate. They revealed illegal relationships, illegitimate acts, violations of sovereignty, contrary to democracy, against freedoms. This is what is in there.”
Speaking of Assange, Obrador stated: “I don’t know whether he has recognized that his actions were confrontational to norms or to the political system, but what the cables demonstrated is the workings of the global system and its authoritarian nature. These are like state secrets that have become known thanks to this investigation, thanks to these cables, and I hope that this is taken into consideration and he is freed and he is no longer tortured.”
Assange is currently being held in a UK prison outside London awaiting a hearing, scheduled for February 24, on an extradition request from the US that the WikiLeaks founder be handed over to face violations of the Espionage Act. Assange has been charged with 18 offenses that carry a sentence of up to 175 years in prison.
Assange is guilty of nothing other than acting as a courageous journalist. He published extensive information that had been concealed from the public about the criminal practices of the US military and American corporations in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world.
Lopez Obrador’s reference to WikiLeaks’ publication of “the cables”, i.e. the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs and the “Cablegate” files, as exposing the “workings of the global system” and “its authoritarian nature” are significant. There have been reports of public support in Mexico for the freedom of Assange.
In 2012, for example, a report was published in the Economic Times saying that a group of Mexican citizens had organized a vigil in defense of Assange in front of the US embassy. Dozens of people were involved in the campaign, which also included multiple embassies in Mexico.
The WikiLeaks founder was arrested on April 11 by British police following his forced eviction from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he had been in asylum for seven years. The regime of Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno illegally terminated Assange’s asylum status and invited the British police into the embassy to assault and carry him off to Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh on the basis of a purported bail violation.
Acting as a vassal of the Trump administration, the Moreno government participated—along with that of UK Prime Minister Theresa May and then Boris Johnson—in the violation of Assange’s rights, one after another. Among these was the installation of illegal 24/7 video surveillance throughout the Ecuadorian embassy. Everything that Assange did and everyone he met with—including his lawyers and doctors—was monitored and observed by the CIA via live video link.
Lopez Obrador’s reference to torture is also important. Over the past year, Assange’s family, friends and supporters have grown increasingly alarmed that the courageous journalist is being slowly tortured to death by the combined assault on his rights by the British and American governments.
On November 4, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer issued a warning that Assange was being mentally and physically tortured in Belmarsh prison and was in imminent danger of dying behind bars. Others, such as British rock musician Roger Waters, have stated that the UK and US governments are trying to kill Assange while he is in prison.
The fact that the president of Mexico is calling for Assange to be released indicates that the popular demand for his freedom is continuing to reach a wider audience. The struggle for freedom of the press, in defense of journalists from state repression and all fundamental democratic rights, is the task of the international working class.
In a revealing intervention, former Foreign Minister Bob Carr has urged the Australian government to ask the Trump administration to drop its extradition proceedings against imprisoned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, for fear of further eroding public support for the US military and intelligence alliance.
In Defence of Julian Assange, edited by Tariq Ali and Margaret Kunstler: here.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution last Tuesday which demands the “prompt release” of imprisoned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and warns that his threatened extradition from Britain to the US, for lawful publishing activities, “sets a dangerous precedent” for all journalists. PACE is the parliamentary wing of the Council of Europe, an international assembly with 47 nation-members that was established in 1949. The organisation, which oversees the work of the European Court of Human Rights, states that its role is to serve as “Europe’s guardian of human rights and democracy”: here.
Further detailed evidence has been produced in a Spanish court that the CIA systematically and illegally recorded conversations between WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his lawyers, and all other visitors, while he was trapped inside Ecuador’s London embassy before he was dragged out and arrested last April to face extradition to the US: here.
Assange would be held in “darkest corner of the prison system” if extradited to the US: here.
Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton discuss President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), Mexico’s first left-wing leader in five decades, with journalist Alina Duarte, who warns that right-wing forces may be trying to overthrow him in a coup, as Mexican foreign policy increasingly challenges the US and OAS.