The Social Network
Just like many of us come together and form close-knit groups on social networks so, too, do bats. Of course, they're not online but they do have, what you might call, their own "Batbook" or "Myotis+" social network. Many species of bats exhibit what are known as fission-fusion dynamics — splitting up and getting back together several times throughout the year. Research has shown that bats form subgroups–maternity colonies–that roost together for long stretches of time during the summer. The roosts are used to rest, and northern bat roosts only contain members from one group. Bats benefit from maintaining a close-knit roosting group because they increase reproductive success and it is important for rearing pups–bat babies.
Understanding these social networks is vital to knowing how diseases like White-nose Syndrome (WNS) affect colonies. The USGS provides critical science to understanding the effects of WNS which affects many species of bats across the U.S. and causing mass mortalities. Loss of these long-lived insect-eating bats could have substantial adverse effects on agriculture and forestry through loss of natural pest-control services.
Learn more about bat social networks at on.doi.gov/WNS
Photo credit: Alan Cressler (alan_cressler on Flickr).