Science Diary: Bat Diversity - Climate Change: The Pulse of the Planet daily radio program offers free legal online mp3 downloads, exploring the world of sound in nature, culture and science, with audio adventures, world music, extraordinary sound portraits, science diaries, and nature ring-tones; an amazing sonic experience.

Airdate: May 22, 2012
Scientist: Tigga Kingston

Science Diary: Bat Diversity - Climate Change

Science Diary: Bat Diversity - Climate Change
A belly full of bugs or pregnant? The answer could have an impact on the population levels of Malaysian bats.

Science Diary: Bat Diversity - Climate Change

Ambience: Malaysian Rain Forest

TK: "Ok, so this is HIDI142. And she's a female adult. And she's very fat! I don't think she's pregnant."

JM: Welcome to Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. We're at a wildlife reserve in Malaysia with bat researcher Tigga Kingston. And the question of whether a bat is pregnant or not may ultimately be crucial for the survival of the species.

TK: "It's quite hard to tell. I have to palpate the abdomen and then if you can feel something like a skull or maybe the elbows of the fetus, then that means it's pregnant, but then it actually gets quite hard to distinguish pregnancy from just being a fat bugger."

JM: According to Tigga Kingston, bats are particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change. Because for bats, small changes in the weather could have a large impact on their reproductive success.

TK: "Typically, species that live for a short time and produce many young tend to recover better from disturbance events. So if the population gets knocked down, they can recover their numbers relatively quickly. But bats aren't like that. Most bats only give birth to one young a year and that's why we're looking at the reproductive data to see if they can give birth anytime of year, or if they're restricted to one season. And the data so far looks like they're giving birth in just one season. The consequence of that is if you miss that season for some reason, if it's a dry year when it should be wet and you can't breed because there aren't enough insects around for you to be able to lactate and support your young, then you're done for the year and so the population experiences a dip. And if this recurs from one year to the next, then you start seeing an overall decline in the population."

JM: Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.