Navigation Links
Smithsonian researchers show major role of bats in plant protection
Date:4/3/2008

Researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute report that bats significantly reduce insect abundance and damage on plants. In a lowland tropical rainforest in Panama, bats can consume roughly twice as many plant-eating insects as do birds. This landmark study in the journal Science is the first to compare the ability of bats and birds to protect plants via insect predation in a natural forest ecosystem.

A previous study by the authors suggested that bats were underestimated predators of plant eating insects, based on video recordings of feeding events.

In the current study, Smithsonian short-term fellow Margareta Kalka, and co-authors Elisabeth Kalko, institute staff scientist and professor at the Institute of Experimental Ecology at the University of Ulm, and Smithsonian postdoctoral fellow Adam Smith, separated the insect-control effects of bats and birds by placing netting enclosures over five common tropical plant species only at night or only by day. Uncovered control plants accessed by both bats and birds lost merely 4.3 percent of their leaf area to insect herbivores. When only birds were excluded, plants lost 7.2 percent of their leaf area. When only bats were excluded, plants lost a striking 13.3 percent of their leaf area, demonstrating that in the tropical forest understory bats can be more effective pest control agents than birds.

Caterpillars, katydids, beetles and other insects devour tropical plant leaves. Plants directly defend themselves by producing tough leaves and toxic chemicals. Phyllis Coley, STRI research associate and University of Utah professor, who has documented tropical plant defenses for many years, considers this study to be a major contribution: The role of insect predators, such as birds and bats, is key to plant survival. However, the magnitude of this top-down pest control is still not well understood.

Previously, researchers estimating the top-down effects of birds on herbivory excluded large insect-eaters by placing netting enclosures over entire plants, leaving the nets in place around the clock. By doing so, they quantified the combined effect of birds and bats but attributed it merely to birds.

Most researchers are outside in the daylight, when they can see birds actively hunting insects. Bats, however, hunt insects at night, which is inherently more secretive and harder to observe, said Sunshine Van Bael, a Smithsonian researcher involved in earlier exclosure projects.

Kalka speculates that the documented greater effect of bats as insect predators in Panama could be attributed to the absence of migratory birds in the area during the study period. This explanation is supported by a similar study presented by researchers from the University of Michigan in the same issue of Science. There, the authors report a seasonal shift in top-down effects of bats and birds on herbivory of shade-grown coffee plants in Mexico. Birds are more important insect predators in the dry season, when migratory birds are present, but are less important than bats in the rainy season, when migrants are absent.

It is clear from both studies that bats play an extremely important role in the food chain in the tropics and probably in temperate areas as well. Bats should be considered in both conservation planning and in management strategies for agricultural areas.


'/>"/>

Contact: Beth King
kingb@si.edu
703-487-3772 x8216
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Smithsonians National Museum of Natural History reveals ants as fungus farmers
2. Turtle nesting threatened by logging practices in Gabon, Smithsonian warns
3. Rare North Island brown kiwi hatches at the Smithsonians National Zoo
4. Smithsonian announces Global Forest Carbon Research Initiative
5. Science, not romance, controls mating at Smithsonians National Zoo
6. Smithsonian study: Sediment prediction tools off the mark
7. Smithsonian scientists highlight environmental impacts of biofuels
8. Smithsonian scientists working to save microscopic threatened species
9. Smithsonian identifies invasive crab species in Panama Canal expansion area
10. Smithsonian identifies invasive crab species in Panama Canal expansion area
11. Smithsonian scientists help lead effort to barcode worlds species
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Smithsonian researchers show major role of bats in plant protection
(Date:1/11/2017)... , Jan. 11, 2017  Michael Johnson, co-founder of Visikol Inc. ... Group, Inc., has been named to the elite "Forbes 30 Under ... one of 600 people in 20 fields nationwide to be recognized ... the 15,000 applicants were selected. ... He is currently a PhD candidate at Rutgers University. ...
(Date:1/4/2017)...  For the thousands of attendees at this year,s International Consumer Electronics ... and biometric measurement devices and services, will be featuring its new line ... A&D Medical,s special CES Exhibit Suite , the new upper arm ... company,s WellnessConnected product platform.  ... ...
(Date:12/22/2016)... NEW YORK , December 22, 2016 ... global provider of secure solutions for the e-Government, Public Safety, HealthCare, ... a subsidiary of SuperCom, has been selected to implement and deploy ... county in Northern California , further expanding its ... ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:1/19/2017)... ... January 18, 2017 , ... LabRoots ... scientists from around the world, was today awarded the "Best Science & Technology ... entirely on merit and decided upon by a dedicated team of researchers and ...
(Date:1/19/2017)...  Northwest Biotherapeutics, Inc. (OTCQB: NWBO) ("NW Bio"), a ... operable and inoperable solid tumor cancers, announced today that ... NW Bio, will present at the Phacilitate Immunotherapy World ... Regency Hotel in Miami, Florida . ... "New Therapeutic Approaches – Expanding the Reach of Cancer ...
(Date:1/18/2017)... According to a new market research report "In situ Hybridization Market by ... (Molecular Diagnostic Laboratories, Academic and Research Institutions) - Global Forecast to 2021" published ... from USD 557.1 Million in 2016, growing at a CAGR of 5.8%. ... ... MarketsandMarkets Logo ...
(Date:1/18/2017)... ... ... Executive search firm Slone Partners proudly supports the SCOPE ... of the clinical trials segment. Hosted in Miami, this conference brings together renowned ... , As executive talent specialists in the industries central to clinical trials, ...
Breaking Biology Technology: