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Tetrapod Zoology

Tetrapod Zoology

Amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals - living and extinct

Poor little bat, impaled on spines

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Here’s one of the most remarkable specimens I own. It’s a very dead juvenile pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus sp., most likely P. pipistrellus) that died after becoming impaled on the long and dangerous spines of a gorse bush. As should be clear, even given my limited photographic abilities, a large gorse spine pierced the base of its left wing, while other spines punched holes in its wing membranes near the left wrist joint, and in the right-hand side of its uropatagium (the membrane between the tail and hindlimbs). The bat is tiny - body length is c. 30 mm.

It seems that the bat tried to pull its right wing off the spines, since it’s preserved with its teeth locked into the right wing membrane – this is hard to make out, so the labelled version might help. Alternatively, the bat might have been biting itself in frustration or desperation. Unable to extricate itself from the spines, the bat died in this pose. The specimen (discovered at Southampton’s Outdoor Sports Centre, Lordswood) made its way to my friend Phil Budd who kindly passed it to me. Numerous cases in the literature attest to the occasional snaring of bats on the spines and tendrils of diverse plants.

Pipistrelles are vesper bats, or vespertilionids. Regular readers may know that the vesper bats of the world have been covered in fairly extensive detail on Tet Zoo ver 2. Go here for links to all parts of the series.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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