At Grassington, which is deep in the Yorkshire Dales National Park but not as high as Buckden and Kettlewell, the bats have a completely different social structure. Both male and female bats live with the young throughout the spring and summer in roosts in the stonework of the old Dales bridges and in holes in ash trees.
"Females may roost as high up the dale as Grassington because they have these warm, cuddly males to bunk up with. This way, females use less energy keeping warm and babies grow faster," Professor Altringham said. "In these marginal conditions, they may just tolerate a few males to keep them warm. Otherwise they kick them out. Why do the males co-habit if they are going to get parasites all over them? Well, that may be down to the usual answer: sex."
Although male and female Daubenton's bats usually live apart throughout the spring and summer, they meet when they begin flying to caves in late summer.
Professor Altringham said: "In and around these caves the bats gather in huge numbers to mate, in a behaviour known as swarming. This is clubbing for bats, with males displaying to females in lengthy acrobatic chases. As winter closes in, these caves will ultimately be their hibernation sites.
"There are nearly 2,000 cave entrances and hundreds of kilometres of cave passages in the Dales and these attract bats from all over Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumbria and beyond for mating and hibernation. The males in Grassington may be giving themselves the opportunity to mate with the females late in the summer before they even get to the caves."
The researchers have built up a detailed picture of social and sexual behaviour by genotyping hundreds of individuals. The evidence gathered from this supports the theory that the Grassington ma
|Contact: Chris Bunting|
University of Leeds