Ambience: Malaysian Rain Forest
â€œWell, it looks like we’ve finally had a bit of a break in the weather after those torrential downpours yesterday afternoon, which had me despairing.â€
Welcome to Pulse of the Planetâ€™s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. Biologist Tigga Kingstonâ€™s bat research has been slowed down by a bout of storms. She uses harp traps, rectangular frames strung with fine fishing line, to catch bats. But when it rains, water droplets cling to the fishing line. This makes the trap detectable to the bats, and thus, no longer effective.
â€œThe forest itself is still very wet and steamy, and all the steam was rising and coming off us, and you could see your breath, it was that humid, it was probably a hundred percent humidity, as the forest was starting to dry out. So, anyway, we did go in last night and we didn’t have a huge number, but we had nine bats, I think. Which compared to our previous sessions earlier, that was fairly a low catch. So we’re off in about five minutes to go and check the traps for the morning, and see if things dried out enough over night for some bats to go in and get caught. Of the ones we did catch, we had a whole bunch of Rhinolophus stheno, which is a horseshoe bat. And lots of the females were pregnant. So it does seem that the small rains after the dry season is a bit of cue for them, because there’s been a ton of insects in the evenings around the lights. Despite the horrible weather, it seems to be insect paradise right now, which means a good time to be a bat and get pregnant. Well, they were already pregnant, but good time to start giving birth. Because lactation is extremely demanding, for any mammal but particularly for bats.â€
At birth, baby bats, called pups, weigh up to 25% of their motherâ€™s weight. So, their mothers must have access to a lot of nourishment in order to support such large offspring. Pulse of the Planetâ€™s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. Iâ€™m Jim Metzner.