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The bat–bird–bug battle: daily flight activity of insects and their predators

The Royal Society Open Science just published a paper by Elin Malmqvist et al. which is the first Lidar study applied to continuous monitoring of aerial insects, bats and birds at the same time. The study illustrates how common patterns of flight activity, e.g. insect swarming around twilight, depend on predation risk and other constraints acting on the faunal components.

Rice field in China.
Photo: Elin Malmqivst

From the abstract:
Flight activity was monitored over a rice field in China during one week in July 2016, using a high- resolution Scheimpflug Lidar system. The monitored Lidar transect was about 520m long and covered approximately 2.5m3. The observed biomass spectrum was bimodal, and targets were separated into insects and vertebrates in a categorization supported by visual observations. Peak flight activity occurred at dusk and dawn, with a 37min time difference between the bat and insect peaks. Hence, bats started to feed in declining insect activity after dusk and stopped before the rise in activity before dawn. A similar time difference between insects and birds may have occurred, but it was not obvious, perhaps because birds were relatively scarce. Our observations are consistent with the hypothesis that flight activity ofbats is constrained by predation in bright light, and that crepuscular insects exploit this constraint by swarming near to sunset/sunrise to minimize predation from bats.

To the paper: "The bat–bird–bug battle: daily flight activity of insects and their predators over a rice field revealed by high-resolution Scheimpflug Lidar"

 

 

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