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Award of Excellence
Christian Ziegler National Geographic Magazine
"Tropical Bats - biodiversity in action"

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Bats are an amazing animal group, that has reached a stunning diversity - almost 1000 species worldwide are described. They also reach impressive local diversity and hence offer a great opportunity to visualize mechanisms of biodiversity. On Barro Colorado Island, a 1600 ha island in Lake Gatun in Central Panama, 74 species of bats have been documented to coexist. Scientists have conducted many studies to shed light on the mechanisms that sustain such a breathtaking diversity. Detailed sudies have revealed that specializing in feeding strategy and roosting choice help maintain the high diversity of bats. Bats on Barro Colorado feed on insects (which they catch in many different ways), fruit, frogs (!), fish (scooped up from the lake), and nectar. For their roost site they choose hollow trees, fallen loggs, tents made from large leaves, cavitied which they chew into living termite nests, and even rolled up banana leaves in which they hang themselfes with little suckers. This story aims to illustrate the wide variety of foraging types and roosting strategies that allow this mindblowing diversity in tropical bats, using the well studied bat community of Barro Colorado Island as a case study.The greater bulldog or fishing bat is seen here scooping up a fish from the water. The bats of this species use their sonar to detect tiny little "bumps" on the water surface, created by their prey, minnow sized fish. They then use their long claws to rake the fish from the water and chew it up on the wing. (Taken in large flight cage)


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