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Bats keep separate households
Date:3/24/2011

Despite the fact that males and females are barely different in size and fur coloration and identical in their preferences for day roosts, at a close glance they are fundamentally different. As so often among mammals in the parti-colored bats too, females carry the full load of parental care with no support whatsoever from males in raising their twin pups. Twinning is rather exceptional among bats and presumably leads to even higher energetic costs imposed on the females. These differences in the investment between the sexes, so the scientists argue, result in different tolerance of males and females towards the quality of their foraging areas and the amount of prey they need to sustain themselves, leading to a segregation of the sexes.

Using radio telemetry data of male and female parti-colored bats in conjunction with environmental data the scientists modelled the ecological niches of each of the sexes within the geographic area of Switzerland. This approach not only allowed to compare the amount of suitable habitat available to each of the two sexes by generating so called habitat suitability maps, but also allowed to estimate and compare the degree and overlap in ecological specialisation between sexes. "Female parti-colored bats seem to be highly specialised and rely heavily on lake shores for their foraging activities" says Marille van Toor from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. "Male parti-colored bats, albeit being also highly specialised, use other and a broader range of resources than females such as rivers, cities, and agricultural areas. The maps which showed no spatial overlap of foraging grounds between the sexes revealed therefore that suitable habitat is almost three times more abundant for males than females. From an ecological perspective males and females behave like two different species" van Toor explains.

The study suggests that within the parti-colored bats females are more vulnerable to habitat change and that conse
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Contact: Leonore Apitz
apitz@orn.mpg.de
49-773-215-0174
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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