Learning About Bats at UGACR

140806_kdi_MistNets022Costa Rica is often admired for its species diversity, and bat species are no exception. Although Costa Rica only occupies 0.03% of the world’s land mass, 12% of bat species around the world can be found here.

UGACR naturalists get the chance to see these animals up close. Our Head Naturalist Arturo Cruz Obando sets up mist nets along some of our trails. Mist nets are made of fine netting to catch bats as they fly through open areas. They form a curtain that begins a few inches off the forest floor and can rise about seven feet in the air. This is important because it allows for the capture of a range of bats who fly at different heights in the forest. Of course, there are other bats that fly high above in the canopy that will not be caught by such nets.

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Bats navigate by echolocation, or the use of sound to map the location of the landscape and potential food. Although humans usually cannot hear the sounds emitted by bats, they can reach the energetic intensity of the noise from a jet plane. Unprotected, the bat’s ears would be damaged by such a loud sound. But the bat’s ear muscles contract during the most intense period of sound and release a moment later to receive the echo. This protects the ears of the bat without compromising the intensity of the sound it sends out.

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Bats are also an important part of the ecosystem. Insect-eating bats hold in check populations of insects, some of which are pests. Bats also pollinate and disperse seeds. While many animals, including birds and monkeys effectively disperse seeds, bats have the distinction of doing so in areas without trees. In these areas, bat dispersed seeds can grow into the pioneer species that begin the process of reforestation.

Information from Mammals of Costa Rica, by Mark Wainwright 

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