Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Monday, March 28, 2011
I think Jane Goodall (above) would fit into this category.
However there are some surprising things you cannot easily rig no-matter how much duct tape. I could not for the life of me 'make' a syringe or a pesola for that matter (a little scale for weighing things). For me the quintessential example of something unexpected that one must buy is that of little plastic bands with numbers to mark individual bats. I have found myself not only ordering fancy little plastic rings with special numbers for each bat but dependant on ordering them from a company in the United Kingdom! So I guess when you need something special it quickly becomes a narrow market. Are we really surprised that there is only one company known for making little rings with numbers to mark birds and bats? Probably not.
Friday, March 25, 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
(an example of a Mythical vampire above and an actual (and rather cute) vampire bat to the right!)
While considering what to write about today and part of me was excited to go on some of my favorite bats- the sucker footed-bats that recently to my dismay were demonstrated to not really BE sucker-footed (long story... don't worry I'll get to this topic soon enough!) But then I thought that maybe that would be jumping ahead and skipping one of the classics.... vampire bats! (Leave it to me to skip the classics! My apologies)!
Did you know there are 3 kinds of vampire bats? When I say 3 kinds I mean 3 species. These are: the common vampire (Desmodus rotundus) (below you can see a common vampire bat on a cave wall), the Hairy-legged vampire (Diphylla ecaudata) (a face of which you can see to the right with its big eyes), and the White-winged vampire (Diaemus youngi). These bats are unique among all bats in that they are the only species that derive their entire diets from blood. Just to get those numbers straight out of the nearly 1100 bat species 3 are vampire bats. That's not very many. Indeed most bats eat insects or fruit and not blood. A diet of blood is actually fairly difficult because blood does not have all the usual components of a balanced diet and is also full of water meaning these animals need special digestive organs to be able to manage eating blood.
So for those vampire literature affectionados out there it is of note that vampire bats are from the 'New World' i.e. the Americans while most of our classic 'vampire' mythology comes from Europe ('Old World'). Vampires also do not 'suck' blood. They simply bite their host and lap up the blood that drips as a result of the wound. Indeed vampire bats have a very special saliva that prevents clotting (what happens when you develop a scab and you stop bleeding) so that they have a little longer to 'eat' before the wound closes. This special saliva has been researched by scientists and is now used in hospitals in cases where doctors need to prevent clotting in human patients! (Pending future post!...)
While vampire bats may SEEM scary they are quiet nice bats and even share food and are excellent mothers. We do not have vampire bats in the US with the exception of some places in Southern Texas.
Vampire bats are interesting for many reasons but also receive a bad reputation due to their diets. (Click here for a video from Animal Planet).
Other blood-feeding animals that are much more common than vampire bats:
and the less common but incredibly cool
- Vampire finch (click here for a video)!
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Aimed at increasing public awareness of the importance of bats United Nations Environmental Programe, Bat Conservation International, Conservation of Populations of Migratory Species of Wild Animals and Eurobats.org have named 2011 'the Year of the Bat!' Please go to http://www.yearofthebat.org/ if you would like to find out more!
I have been bit, stung and harassed by a variety of insects ranging from acacia ants, wasps, Velvet 'ants', to mosquitoes, even one time being bit by a mosquito literally ON my eyelid waking and being met with looks of terror from my fellow field-workers at my Quasimodo-esque appearance. However, I can count on one hand (or at least that was the case until my last trip to the field) the number of ticks I had had the dis-pleasure to encounter. I had convinced myself that my record: one Colorado tick and one Panama tick was due to a genetically coded body chemistry derived from my father's apparent mosquito-repelling composition. This idea was just fine for me- I have to admit that on both previous tick-encounters I had to be literally pinned down during the ridiculously belabored and meticulous process of tick removal...
How do you remove a tick and why should you care?
Carefully... very carefully with heat or something else to provide encouragement to back out of its position and pull its head (see above) out of your body. A warmed piece of metal like tweezers will do the trick. After it starts to wiggle and appeared annoyed you can carefully pull it out without getting its head stuck inside your skin. Can you start to see where my general dislike for ticks is ... embedded? What happens if the head is not removed? Infection. Infection and the perpetual knowledge that you have a nasty little tick head stuck in your skin! Yuck!
- you cannot really feel the tick biting, and wouldn't notice it unless you saw or felt a bump where the tick was attached.
- ticks CAN carry diseases like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or Lyme's Disease but more often or not they are innocent creatures looking for a meal.
- many mammals are hosts to ticks including deer, cows and bats. Even some lizards and birds are infected by ticks
- click (HERE) for a video about ticks
So this last trip I discovered that I had a tick but unfortunately everyone was sound asleep. So I was left with two options: 1. Buck up and deal by removing it or 2. desperately wait for help while shuddering in my sleep picturing it munching away at my blood while I try to sleep... I bet I could feel its minuscule jaw wiggling as it ate! I chose (1) to try to remove it with no help to prevent my thrashing while I myself performed the nearly-ritualized removal. The suffering was not as bad as I expected although the process took an excessive 30 minuets! So all was well when the next day after walking to and from the cave for work I found I had no less than 12 more new friends to remove! I can now say I am at least proficient at most tick self-removal (we will not talk about the nearly dime sized 'friend; i had in the center of my back that I had to ask for help with!
So what if we try to picture life through a tick's eyes? What would we see? Would we feel less repulsed? I mean just knowing that the Spanish name for these guys 'garrapata' (leg grabbers) makes I will admit feel a little sorry for them for their unfortunately condition of being born ticks."I am so hungry ... I could just cry. The girls left weeks ago when they sensed a warmth below and they jumped terrified entangled in each others legs (all 16 legs 8 each). I did not hear a peep from below and I cannot convince myself that they made it safely. I will never know. I know of only 2 to 3 times when we ticks have been re-united with our loved ones. And now I sit. I wonder and I remember. I told them it was safer to wait until they sensed not just heat but also the CO2 that would let us know that finally an end to our weeks of starvation were at an end. I explained that the CO2 could ONLY be released by a host but heat could be tricky that they should be prudent and wait. But they were desperate. And now I am here. alone. ALONE. And so hungry. It would be fine with the memories of loves lost (my husband died months ago and now I hope that I will find food in time to lay my eggs so he will at least be remembered one day by his 2000 children). I did not ask for this life but it is mine to live and for my children I choose to hold on tightly to this blade of grass waiting... and waiting."
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Because the drive is long we will first secure where we are staying, and ask to use the centrifuge housed at a ranch near (~ 45 mins. away) to the cave and walk to the cave (~half an hour walk across cow pastures) by this time in the dark to put cloths under the bat colonies to collect the food they drop while they eat in the roost!
More news pending our return!
Meanwhile- bats or bust!
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Plans for what became called Project X-Ray was hatched by Donald Griffin, a Harvard scientist and famous bat researcher and a very young Jack Couffer among others.
An excellent and often funny book on the topic titled Bat Bomb by Jack Couffer tells the whole story. A famous bat named 'Flamethrower' is also discussed in the book. Flamethrower was a Mastiff bat (Eumops perotis) which is the largest bat that occurs in the US, weighing around 60 grams (~2 oz). Because the bombs that were designed for bats to carry needed to be small and light-weight Flamethrower who was tame was used as a model for various prototypes. The problem however was that Flamethrower as a Mastiff bat was much larger than the bats that were going to be used for Project X-Ray! Needless to say the project had so many problems (including unplanned bat-initiated explosions!) that it never went into action.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
This disease has killed bats in numerous states in the eastern US:
- New Jersey
- New York
- New Hampshire
- West Virginia
And in Canada
It is estimated that over 1 million bats have died from this disease. The causes of white nose syndrome are still somewhat unclear however what is known is that a fungus previously undescribed (Geomyces destructans) infects the skin of bats infected by white nose syndrome. Bats that usually hibernate during the winter are having difficulties maintaining the fat deposits that they metabolize (break down) for energy during the winter. Without the fat stores required for hibernation, bats are staying active during cold winter temperatures which is energetically expensive particularly because food (insects) is limited during winter months.
Researchers are very concerned that the disease is moving west. Unfortunately the fungus associated with White Nose Syndrome has already been found in Oklahoma and Missouri.
Learn more about this disease by clicking HERE.