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Researching Australia’s smallest bat

03 Mar 2020

Researching Australia’s smallest bat Image

“Citizen scientists” were enlisted by the City of Melbourne and the University of Melbourne to help survey populations of microbats in Southbank in February.

Sixteen “bioblitz” events occurred across the City of Melbourne, including in Kings Domain, focusing on microbats. Participants assisted in catching the bats and recording their calls.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said microbats played a unique role in the city’s ecosystem.

“There are only five species of microbat in the City of Melbourne, but we know there are around 16 different species across greater Melbourne, many of which are listed as threatened species under state and federal legislation,” the Lord Mayor said.

“These little nocturnal creatures play an important role in our city by helping to regulate and control insect populations. During summer microbats go into feeding frenzies as they fatten up for winter, with one microbat capable of eating up to 600 insects an hour.”

“It’s important we learn as much as we can about these microbats, with recent technological advancements making tracking them easier than ever. Citizen scientists can help us monitor our local populations and even capture high-quality bat calls on their smart phones.”

Microbats differ from Melbourne’s famous “flying-foxes” by exclusively eating insects, using ultrasonic calls and weighing only a few grams. The smallest bat in Australia, the Little Forest Bat, can fit into a matchbox.

The microbats are dependent on tree hollows to survive and are sensitive to threats such as light at night, pollution, loss of tree habitat and the effects of climate change.

The City of Melbourne declared a climate and biodiversity emergency last year and is committed to stepping up action on climate change to avoid the severe impacts of global warming.

There are at least 90 species of plants and animals at risk of extinction that occur in the Greater Melbourne area including the yellow-bellied sheathtail bat, the grey-headed flying fox, the swift parrot and the growling grass frog.

Chair of the City of Melbourne’s environment portfolio Cr Cathy Oke said the bioblitz events helped people understand the importance of biodiversity.

“We want to help educate the general population about the plight of some of our city’s smallest and most threatened species,” Cr Oke said.

“The more people know about these microbats the more willing they will be to help preserve their habitat and ensure their survival. I’d encourage everyone to sign up for the event to better understand these interesting and cute little creatures.”

Dr Pia Lentini from the University of Melbourne’s School of Biosciences led the events in partnership with the City of Melbourne’s urban forest and ecology team •

 

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