They weigh around 15 grams, the same as a 50 cent coin. They devour vast quantities of insects. And they’re in real trouble.
Our new research has found the critically endangered southern bent-wing bat is continuing to decline. Its populations are centered on just three “maternity” caves in southeast South Australia and southwest Victoria, where the bats give birth and raise their young. At night, mothers leave their pups clustered in a “creche” on the cave ceiling while they head out to hunt for moths, including agricultural pest species. These beautiful bats have already lost 90% of the natural vegetation in their range due to land clearing. Now they face a drying climate.
Our research tracked thousands of these bats and found new mother bats and their young were not surviving well, especially in drought conditions. Our modeling shows they will be near extinct within 36 years, with declines of up to 97%. That’s just three generations of bat.
To stop them following other species into extinction, these bats need urgent action. Why are these bats in such trouble? Most cave-roosting bats are highly threatened in Australia, with 62% of species listed as threatened at a state or national level.
While we don’t often see them, bats make up one quarter of all Australian mammal species. They play vital roles in our ecosystems, with microbats like the southern bent-wing bat feeding on insects, including agricultural pests. Fruit bats like flying-foxes are important long-distance pollinators and seed dispersers. Despite this, Australian bats are under-studied and under-funded for research and conservation.
Lead Image: Credit: Lindy Lumsden.
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