European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 61, Issue 1, pp 17–25 | Cite as

Living above the treeline: roosting ecology of the alpine bat Plecotus macrobullaris

  • Antton Alberdi
  • Joxerra Aihartza
  • Ostaizka Aizpurua
  • Egoitz Salsamendi
  • R. Mark Brigham
  • Inazio Garin
Original Paper


Little is known about the alpine bat community, but recent studies suggest that the alpine long-eared bat, Plecotus macrobullaris, commonly forages in alpine habitats, although most of its known roosting records are from locations situated below the treeline. Aiming to contribute to resolving this seemingly contradictory pattern of ecological preferences of P. macrobullaris, we carried out a radio-tracking study to (1) identify its roosts and unveil its roosting habitat preferences, (2) determine whether bats found foraging in alpine habitats do actually roost and breed in such high-mountain environments, and (3) test if any elevation-related sexual segregation occurs. We captured 117 alpine long-eared bats and radio-tracked 37 individuals to 54 roosts located at elevations between 1,450 and 2,430 m, 46 of them above the treeline. Bats used rock crevices (30 roosts), scree deposits (21) and buildings (3) for roosting, and most lactating and pregnant females relied on crevices. Bats selected areas with high meadow availability near the roost, while avoiding densely forested areas. Foraging areas and roosting sites were located at the same elevation, indicating that alpine long-eared bats use alpine areas for both roosting and foraging in the Pyrenees. Breeding females roosted at lower elevations than nulliparous females and males, though they remained above the treeline. Although being considerably different to the ecological preferences described so far in the Alps, the roosting behaviour we observed was consistent with some ecological traits, namely foraging and trophic behaviour, of P. macrobullaris, as well as its distribution pattern linked to mountain regions.


Alpine long-eared bat Mountain long-eared bat Pyrenees Radio-tracking Sexual segregation Scree deposits Thermoregulation 



The Basque Government supported this study (project IT-301/10), and the Governments of Aragon and Catalonia provided the necessary permits for performing it. We thank all the students and forest rangers who participated in the demanding fieldwork.


  1. Aellen V (1962) Le baguement des chauves-souris au Col de Bretolet (Valais). Arch des Sci 14:365–392, GenèveGoogle Scholar
  2. Alberdi A, Aihartza J, Albero JC et al (2012a) First records of the parti-coloured bat Vespertilio murinus (Chiroptera: Vespertilionidae) in the Pyrenees. Mammalia 76:109–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alberdi A, Garin I, Aizpurua O, Aihartza J (2012b) The foraging ecology of the mountain long-eared bat Plecotus macrobullaris revealed with DNA mini-barcodes. PLoS ONE 7:e35692. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035692.t001 PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Alberdi A, Garin I, Aizpurua O, Aihartza J (2013) Review on the geographic and elevational distribution of the mountain long-eared bat Plecotus macrobullaris, completed by utilising a specific mist-netting technique. Acta Chiropterol 15:451–461CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Arthur L, Lemaire M (2009) Les chauves-souris de France, Belgique, Luxembourg et Suisse. Biotope Editions, MezeGoogle Scholar
  6. Ashrafi S, Rutishauser M, Ecker K et al (2013) Habitat selection of three cryptic Plecotus bat species in the European Alps reveals contrasting implications for conservation. Biodivers Conserv 22:2751–2766. doi: 10.1007/s10531-013-0551-z CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baagøe HJ (2001) Danish bats (Mammalia: Chiroptera): atlas and analysis of distribution, occurrence and abundance. Zoological Museum, University of Copenhagen, CopenhagenGoogle Scholar
  8. Barataud M (2005) Fréquentation des paysages sud-alpins par des chiroptères en activités de chasse. Le Rhinolophe 17:11–22Google Scholar
  9. Benda P, Kiefer A, Hanak V, Veith M (2004) Systematic status of African populations of long-eared bats, genus Plecotus (Mammalia: Chiroptera). Folia Zool 53:1–47Google Scholar
  10. Benda P, Georgiakakis P, Dietz C (2008) Bats (Mammalia: Chiroptera) of the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. Part 7. The bat fauna of Crete, Greece. Acta Soc Zool Bohem 72:105–190Google Scholar
  11. Cramp S, Perrins CM, Brooks DJ, Dunn E (1994) Handbook of the birds of Europe the Middle East and Nort Africa. VIII—Crows to finches. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  12. Cryan P, Bogan M, Altenbach J (2000) Effect of elevation on distribution of female bats in the Black Hills, South Dakota. J Mammal 81:719–725CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dejean S (2009) Capture du très peu connu Oreillard montagnard (Plecotus macrobullaris). Taís 3:18–19Google Scholar
  14. Deng H, Wickham H (2011) Density estimation in R. Electronic publicationGoogle Scholar
  15. Dietz C, Helversen von O (2004) Illustrated identification key to the bats of Europe. Electronic publication. Accessed 15 May 2010Google Scholar
  16. Dzal YA, Brigham RM (2012) The tradeoff between torpor use and reproduction in little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus). J Comp Physiol B 183:279–288PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Garin I, Garcia-Mudarra JL, Aihartza J et al (2003) Presence of Plecotus macrobullaris (Chiroptera: Vespertilionidae) in the Pyrenees. Acta Chiropterol 5:243–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Holzhaider J, Zahn A (2001) Bats in the Bavarian Alps: species composition and utilization of higher altitudes in summer. Mamm Biol 66:144–154Google Scholar
  19. Johnson J, Kiser J, Watrous K, Peterson T (2011) Day-roosts of Myotis leibii in the Appalachian Ridge and Valley of West Virginia. Northeast Nat 18:95–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kutner M, Nachtsheim C, Neter J (2004) Applied linear regression models. McGraw Hill/Irwin Series. Accessed 8 Sept 2014Google Scholar
  21. Lausen CL, Barclay RMR (2006) Benefits of living in a building: big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) in rocks versus buildings. J Mammal 87:362–370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Luque-Larena JJ, López P, Gosálbez J (2002) Microhabitat use by the snow vole Chionomys nivalis in alpine environments reflects rock-dwelling preferences. Can J Zool 80:36–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Madge S, Burn H (1994) Crows and jays. Christopher Helm Publishers Ltd, LondonGoogle Scholar
  24. Mattei-Roesli M (2010) Situazione del genere Plecotus (Chiroptera) nel Cantone Ticino (Svizzera). Boll Soc ticin Sci nat 98:31–34Google Scholar
  25. Michaelsen T (2010) Steep altitudinal gradients can benefit lowland bats. Folia Zool 59:203–205Google Scholar
  26. Pavlinic I, Tvrtkovic N (2004) Altitudinal distribution of four Plecotus species (Mammalia, Vespertilionidae) occurring in Croatia. Croatian Nat Hist Museum 13:395–401Google Scholar
  27. Preatoni D, Spada M, Wauters L et al (2011) Habitat use in the female Alpine long-eared bat (Plecotus macrobullaris): does breeding make the difference? Acta Chiropterol 13:355–364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Presetnik P, Koselj K, Zagmajster M (2009) Atlas netopirjev (Chiroptera) Slovenije. Atlas of bats (Chiroptera) of Slovenia. Miklavž na Dravskem polju : Center za kartografijo favne in flore, LjubianaGoogle Scholar
  29. Rancourt SJ, Rule MI, O’Connell MA (2005) Maternity roost site selection of long-eared myotis, Myotis evotis. J Mammal 86:77–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Russo D (2002) Elevation affects the distribution of the two sexes in Daubenton’s bats Myotis daubentonii (Chiroptera: Vespertilionidae) from Italy. Mammalia 66:543–551CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rutishauser MD, Bontadina F, Braunisch V et al (2012) The challenge posed by newly discovered cryptic species: disentangling the environmental niches of long-eared bats. Divers Distrib 18:1107–1119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Saniga M (1995) Seasonal distribution, altitudinal and horizontal migration of the wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria) in the Malá Fatra Mountais, Slovak Carpathians. Folia Zool 44:237–246Google Scholar
  33. Scapozza C, Lambiel C, Baron L et al (2011) Internal structure and permafrost distribution in two alpine periglacial talus slopes, Valais, Swiss Alps. Geomorphology 132:208–221. doi: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2011.05.010 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Shehab A, Karatas A, Amr Z et al (2007) The distribution of bats (Mammalia: Chiroptera) in Syria. Vertebrate Zool 57:103–132Google Scholar
  35. Smith AT, Weston ML (1990) Ochotona princeps. Mamm Species 352:1–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Solick D, Barclay R (2006) Thermoregulation and roosting behaviour of reproductive and nonreproductive female western long-eared bats (Myotis evotis) in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta. Can J Zool 84:589–599CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Swift SM (1998) Long-eared bats. Poyser, LondonGoogle Scholar
  38. van der Kooij J (1999) Nordflaggermus Eptesicus nilssonii funnet i steinrøys. Fauna 52:208–211Google Scholar
  39. Villaret JC, Bon R, Rivet A (1997) Sexual segregation of habitat by the alpine ibex in the French Alps. J Mammal 78:1273–1281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Yan-Hua Q, Zuo-Hua Y, De Ritis SF (2002) Distribution patterns of snow finches (genus Montifringilla) in the Tibetan Plateau of China. Avocetta 26:11–18Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Antton Alberdi
    • 1
  • Joxerra Aihartza
    • 1
  • Ostaizka Aizpurua
    • 1
  • Egoitz Salsamendi
    • 1
  • R. Mark Brigham
    • 2
  • Inazio Garin
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Zoology and Animal Cell Biology, Faculty of Science and TechnologyUniversity of The Basque Country UPV/EHULeioaSpain
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of ReginaReginaCanada

Personalised recommendations