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. 2018 Aug 2;6:11.
doi: 10.1186/s40462-018-0131-7. eCollection 2018.

Aerial-hawking Bats Adjust Their Use of Space to the Lunar Cycle

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Free PMC article

Aerial-hawking Bats Adjust Their Use of Space to the Lunar Cycle

Manuel Roeleke et al. Mov Ecol. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Background: Animals change their habitat use in response to spatio-temporal fluctuation of resources. Some resources may vary periodically according to the moonphase. Yet it is poorly documented how animals, particularly nocturnal mammals, adjust their use of space in response to the moonphase.Here, we asked if an obligate nocturnal mammal, the aerial-hawking common noctule bat (Nyctalus noctula), adjusts its 3-dimensional flight behaviour and habitat use to the lunar period. Using miniaturized GPS loggers, we recorded 3-dimensional flight tracks of N. noctula and related these to a canopy height model derived from aerial laser scans to investigate whether bats adjust forest strata use to moonlight intensities.

Results: Noctules frequently foraged above the canopy of coniferous forest at low moonlight intensities, but switched to using open grasslands and arable fields in nights with high moonlight intensities. During the few occasions when noctules used the forest during moonlit nights, they mostly restricted their use of space to flying below the canopy level. The median overall flight altitude of N. noctula equalled 13 ± 16 m but reached up to 71 m above ground (97.5% quantile).

Conclusions: Our findings argue against general lunar phobic behaviour of aerial-hawking bats. We suggest that the preferred use of open fields around full moon may be a strategy of noctules to increase the success of hunting airborne insects at night. Specifically, the adjustment in use of space may allow bats to hunt for insects that emerge and disperse over open fields during bright moonlight.

Keywords: Flight altitude; Forest structure; Habitat use; LiDAR; Moonlight; Nyctalus noctula.

Conflict of interest statement

Not applicable. Not applicable. The authors declare that they have no competing interests. Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Figures

Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Probability of N. noctula flying above the canopy level when using forested areas, depending on the moonlight intensity. Dots depict effect estimates from the underlying model, bars depict the corresponding 95% confidence intervals
Fig. 2
Fig. 2
Relative distribution of flight altitudes of N. noctula for different habitat types and for all recordings, recorded at different moonlight intensities. The horizontal black line shows the median tree height, derived from all bat locations in forested areas
Fig. 3
Fig. 3
Preference of N. noctula for different habitat classes, depending on the moonlight intensity. Values above 0.5 indicate that N. noctula used this habitat more frequently than expected from availability derived from randomly rotated tracks. Values smaller than 0.5 indicate relative avoidance of the respective habitat type. Dots depict effect estimates from the underlying model, bars depict the corresponding 95% confidence intervals. Percentages depict the relative number of GPS locations within each habitat type for the respective moonlight intensity
Fig. 4
Fig. 4
Probability that N. noctula showed movement behaviour associated with foraging, shown for the different habitat types and depending on the moonlight intensity. Values higher than 0.5 indicate that N. noctula used the respective habitat primarily for foraging during the given moonlight intensity. Dots depict effect estimates from the underlying model, bars depict the corresponding 95% confidence intervals

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