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Ecology and evolutionary biology of fishing bats

Aizpurua, Ostaizka, Alberdi, Antton
Mammal review 2018 v.48 no.4 pp. 284-297
Myotis, ecology, evolutionary biology, feces, fish
A few of the >1300 bat species recognised worldwide are known to consume fish to various extents. However, empirical information about how and how much different bat species capture and consume fish is limited and is probably distorted due to the biases introduced by occasional observations. In this review, we aim to synthesise the knowledge so far generated on fishing bats, in order to 1) assess the incidence of fishing in different bat species; 2) discuss the evolutionary framework and origins of fishing behaviour; and 3) identify the ecological challenges of fishing and review the state of knowledge about kinetic, morphological, sensory, behavioural, and physiological adaptations related to fishing. Fishing bats can be clustered into three groups based on the incidence of fish consumption. Noctilio leporinus is the only species in which fishing is widespread (occurring in most populations) and common (occurring most of the time and carried out by many individuals). Myotis vivesi, Myotis pilosus, and Myotis capaccinii comprise the second group, characterised by exhibiting regular fishing behaviour that is restricted to a limited number of populations. Noctilio albiventris, Myotis daubentonii, and Myotis macropus are classified in a third group, because although the occasional presence of fish traces in faeces has been reported, regular fishing behaviour in the wild has not been confirmed. Fishing was developed independently multiple times in different bat lineages, probably under different selective pressures and ecological scenarios. Nevertheless, all fishing species face similar challenges in terms of detecting, capturing, handling, and metabolising fish, which require specific kinetic, morphological, sensory, behavioural, and physiological adaptations. Both basic information about fishing behaviour in different species and specific knowledge of the biological adaptation are still missing. Thus, in this review we identify gaps in the knowledge and suggest experimental approaches to overcome them.