Europe Discovers First Fishing Bat

The long-fingered bat is the first bat species in Europe identified to catch and eat fish, scientists say.

Weighing around 0.3 ounce (9 grams) and measuring just over 1.5 inches (42 millimeters), the minuscule bat was long thought to nourish only on insects. Scientists were therefore surprised to discover fish bones and scales in the bat's feces in 2003.

To figure out whether the bats were vigorously fishing, Joxerra Aihartza of the University of the Basque Country in Bilbao, Spain, and colleagues began monitoring the animals' feeding behavior using small radio tracking devices.

Recently the team captured video of the bats catching live fish.

"They fly low over the water and seize surface-feeding fish, such as the mosquitofish, with their claws," Aihartza said.

A handful of bats worldwide are known to catch fish, including South America's fisherman bat. (Video shows fisherman bat at work.)

As far as Aihartza and colleagues know, the long-fingered bat is the only bat in Europe with this ability.

Despite its skill as a fisher, the long-fingered bat mostly eats aquatic insects, the team said. The bats likely turn to fishing when nearby bodies of water start to dry out, forcing more fish to swim near the water's surface and making them easier to catch.

The long-fingered bat can be found foraging over wetlands and waterways—with canals and reservoirs—across its range, which hugs the Mediterranean coasts of Morocco, Algeria, and Europe, stretching into Lebanon, Jordan, and Iran.

Major fear to the species' survival include water pollution, dam construction, and wetlands loss, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

"Habitat accessibility is a real problem for this bat, and in Spain it is an endangered species," Aihartza said.
Bookmark and Share