A closer look at bats is underway across the US and Canada in an effort to observe and better understand the way in which they function. The valuable research will give researchers insight into both the role that these mammals play in the ecological system, as well as the new threats the species is facing.
The U.S. Geological Survey’s branch chief stated that the much needed information could not come any sooner as bats have been facing some serious issues, including loss of habitat, disease and side effects of the development of wind energy industry.
A monitoring program has been set up to record and store data about the high-pitched frequencies that bats emit during flying, frequencies which the mammals use to hunt for prey and travel in the dark.
Because the animals are nocturnal and most of the 150 species that exist in the U.S. are small in size, researchers have found it hard to study the creatures. While the technology that ecologists use to this effect has been evolving over the past two decades, there is still a lot of work involved in successfully monitoring bats and obtaining reliable information.
One researcher explained that the equipment used to have to be carried to different locations in which the study was taking place. Nowadays there is an application that can link these specific devices to a person’s iPhone, so it’s clear some progress has been made at least in the technical department.
But bats still suffer from a bad reputation which is, in many cases, undeserved. They seem to have a negative image, being associated with mysterious beings that hide in the shadows and fly in the night with some sinister purpose. However, they are of vital importance to the ecosystem they are a part of.
Despite not being the prettiest of mammals, bats have a key role in maintaining the health and balance within their habitats. Thanks to the diet of most of these species, they help keep the insect population in check within the forests that they live in.
Although most of the species in the U.S. feed on insects, there are a few kinds of bats that consume nectar and, in doing so, help with plant pollination as well.
But all of these species are at risk as their populations have been declining in recent years because of diseases, loss of their habitats and even collisions with spinning blades on wind farms. Scientists are working hard to gather enough data within the next five years to be able to understand what this fall in numbers will mean for the ecosystem and the bats themselves.
Image source: www.wikipedia.org