Recently a team of bat enthusiasts entered Calke Abbeys Southwood armed with traps, measuring devices, sampling tubes and torches. The team was led by Philip Brown who is currently researching the distribution of a relatively recently discovered bat called the Alcathoe bat.
Although ‘new to science’, this bat has probably been with us for a while. The Alcathoe bat looks incredibly similar to two other bat species that inhabit our shores (Brandts and Wiskered bats), and therefore would previously have been assumed to be one of these. This species was first identified in Greece in 2001, and during 2010 the species had been confirmed at Ryedale in the North Yorkshire Moors and the South Downs in Sussex. Philips research is aimed at acquiring a more detailed distribution of this species throughout England.
These three bat species look so similar, that in order to tell them apart a dropping sample is collected for later DNA analysis. One of our top objectives for the evening was therefore to return home with samples of bat poo. How else would anyone want to spend their evenings?
To catch the bats elaborate Harp traps were set up between trees, whereby fine fishing wire is strung vertically running down into a fabric trough at the bottom with folds amongst the fabric to trap the bats as they attempt to crawl up and out.
Once trapped the bats are placed into a small fabric bag, where they stay for around 10 minutes in order to allow a poo sample to materialise. The bats particulars are then taken down, such as weight, wing span, species and sex. Upon release a recording of the bats echo location was also recorded, which could later be used to determine whether there is a difference between each of these three species.
The evening was a great success with a total of 17 bats captured, including some Alcathoe potentials. We will have to wait and see what the DNA analysis throws up, and it could be that our own Southwood is home to the ‘new to science’ Alcathoe bat. Here’s hoping!
For more detailed information on Phillips research visit his blog.