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Hemprich’s long-eared bat (Otonycteris hemprichii) as a predator of scorpions: whispering echolocation, passive gleaning and prey selection

Abstract

Over 70% of the droppings of the gleaning bat Otonycteris hemprichii can contain scorpion fragments. Yet, some scorpions found in its desert habitat possess venom of the highest known toxicity, rendering them a very dangerous prey. In this study, we describe how O. hemprichii catches and handles scorpions, quantify its flight and echolocation behaviour in the field, investigate what sensory modality it uses to detect scorpions, and test whether it selects scorpions according to their size or toxicity. We confirmed that O. hemprichi is a whispering bat (approx. 80 dB peSPL) with short, multi-harmonic calls. In a flight room we also confirmed that O. hemprichii detects scorpions by their walking noises. Amplitudes of such noises were measured and they reach the flying bat at or below the level of echoes of the loess substrate. Bats dropped straight onto moving scorpions and were stung frequently even straight in their face. Stings did not change the bats’ behaviour and caused no signs of poisoning. Scorpions were eaten including poison gland and stinger. Bats showed no preference neither for any of the scorpion species nor their size suggesting they are generalist predators with regard to scorpions.

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Acknowledgments

Bats were caught and housed under permission by the Israel Nature and Parks Protection Authority (permit # 13414 2005). We thank the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research at BGU for providing the facilities. This is paper number 713 of the MDDE.

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Correspondence to Carmi Korine.

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Holderied, M., Korine, C. & Moritz, T. Hemprich’s long-eared bat (Otonycteris hemprichii) as a predator of scorpions: whispering echolocation, passive gleaning and prey selection. J Comp Physiol A 197, 425–433 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00359-010-0608-3

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Keywords

  • Scorpion toxicity
  • Echolocation
  • Source level
  • Passive gleaning
  • Desert