Navigation Links
Great tits eat bats in times of need
Date:9/25/2009

This release is available in German.

Necessity is the mother of invention: Great Tits eat hibernating common pipistrelle bats under harsh conditions of snow cover. This remarkable newly-acquired behaviour was observed by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen and their colleagues in a cave in Hungary. When the researchers offered the birds alternative feed, they ate it and showed little or no interest in flying into the cave again. (Biology Letters, online prepublication from September 9, 2009).

Reports on the ingenuity of birds of the tit family in their search for food go as far back as the 1940s when it was observed that Blue Tits in the British Isles had learned how to open the aluminium tops of milk bottles left on doorsteps by milkmen to get at the cream that had formed on top of the milk. Another astonishing acquired behaviour among Great Tits (Parus major) has now been observed by the researchers working with Bjrn Siemers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and their Hungarian colleagues. On 21 observation days over two winters, Great Tits flew a total of 18 times into a cave in north-east Hungary to look for and eat the Common Pipistrelle bats (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) hibernating there. The researchers explain this behaviour with the extreme necessity they faced in their search for food. Great Tits eat insects or arachnids in summer and usually look for seeds and berries in winter. Winters in north-east Hungary can be very harsh, however, with closed snow cover.

The observed cave had a large entrance. Therefore, a small amount of light penetrated into it and the birds were able to find their way around in the semi-darkness. The birds probably locate the bats in the cave through the sounds that hibernating animals make when disturbed and awoken. These sounds range from the human acoustic range to the ultra-sound range. The researchers proved that these sounds were within the audible range of the birds by playing a recording of the bat sounds to them. The birds responded by moving towards the loudspeaker with interest. "These sounds probably have a defensive purpose," says Bjorn Siemers, "and it would seem plausible that the birds use the sounds to locate the bats." The Great Tits needed at most 15 minutes from entry into the cave to capture a bat. In some cases, they carried the Pipistrelles out of the cave in their beaks and ate them on nearby trees.

This behaviour is strongly dependent on the available food supply, however. When the researchers placed an additional food source in the form of sunflower seeds and bacon fat a few metres away from the entrance to the cave, only one of the birds still went looking for a bat. "Behavioural flexibility coupled with altered environmental conditions, e.g. food scarcity, can trigger astonishing innovations in animal behaviour," concludes Siemers. This innovative behaviour is not an isolated case and is probably passed on from generation to generation. Pter Estk, the first author of the study, had already observed a Great Tit eating a bat in the same cave ten years ago. A similar observation was also reported in Poland. "This could support the idea of cultural learning between different populations or it could indicate an independent development in different locations with the same ecological conditions," notes Bjrn Siemers in conclusion.


'/>"/>

Contact: Dr. Bjrn M. Siemers
siemers@orn.mpg.de
49-815-793-2348
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Worlds last great forest under threat: New study
2. Why sleep? UCLA scientist delves into one of sciences great mysteries
3. Round Goby invade Great Lakes
4. Investing wisely to save the Great Barrier Reef
5. Ovarian transplantation: New technique gives greatly improved results in this delicate operation
6. New, less invasive genetic test greatly improves pregnancy rates in older women with poor prognosis
7. What makes a great footballer?
8. From Jack the Ripper to great white sharks
9. Genetic testing for breast or ovarian cancer risk may be greatly underutilized
10. Innerscope Research(R) Receives Three Great Minds Innovation Awards from the Advertising Research Foundation
11. Innerscope Research(R) Receives Three Great Minds Innovation Awards from the Advertising Research Foundation
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Great tits eat bats in times of need
(Date:2/2/2016)... , Feb. 2, 2016  BioMEMS ... are primarily focused on medical screening and ... point-of-care parameters. Wearable devices that facilitate and ... freedom of movement are being bolstered through ... human biomedical signal acquisition coupled with wireless ...
(Date:2/2/2016)... Feb. 2, 2016  Based on its recent ... Sullivan recognizes US-based Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems (IRIS) ... Award for New Product Innovation. IRIS, a prominent ... North America , is poised to set ... diabetic retinopathy market. The IRIS technology presents superior ...
(Date:1/27/2016)... , Jan. 27, 2016  Rite Track, Inc. a ... West Chester, Ohio announced today ... service staff, based in Austin, Texas ... ability to provide modifications, installations and technical support offerings ... CEO of PLUS, commented, "PLUS has provided world class ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/11/2016)... , Feb. 11, 2016  Vermillion, Inc. (NASDAQ: ... gynecologic disease, today announced the formation of the Steering ... --> --> Pelvic masses can ... diagnosis and management. Once pregnancy is ruled out, pelvic ... and ovaries, advanced endometriosis, benign ovarian tumors and gastrointestinal ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... 11, 2016  Bioethics International, a not-for-profit organization focused on ... marketed and made accessible to patients around the world, today ... named the publication of the Good Pharma Scorecard ... also featured as one of BMJ Open ,s ,Most ... that are most frequently read. Ed Sucksmith , ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... , Feb. 11, 2016  Wellcentive today announced ... Portland, Oregon -based community care organization ... population health analytics, quality reporting and care management ... strengthen its team of quality managers, analysts and ... the provider groups serving FamilyCare members. ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... Feb. 11, 2016  Dovetail Genomics™ LLC today announced ... program for a planned metagenomic genome assembly service. ... metagenomic genome assembly method in a talk on Friday, ... & Technology conference in Orlando, Fla. ... complex datasets is difficult. Using its proprietary ...
Breaking Biology Technology: