Fondren Science Series

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Chiropteran Mortality


The study of chiropteran mortality is a difficult one because observations concerning mass mortality, predation, and fatal accidents are sporadic and unexpected. Almost every known predaceous animal preys on bats from time to time; but (with one or two rare exceptions) do so only when an occasional opportunity presents itself, and do not specialize in bat predation. Our knowledge of bat pathology is meager. Mass-mortalities have been reported only from sight observations, and the causative organisms rarely ascertained, because of the unexpected encounter. The relationships between human and chiropteran diseases are becoming much better understood; this study is mostly oriented toward man, and not toward the cause and effect of disease in the chiroptera. The longevity of certain bats is known to range between 15 and 20 years; but their unique activities make them rather prone to accident. They become impaled on such sharp objects as barbed wire, and locust, burdock, and cactus spines. They fall into water holes and drown, get entrapped in tar pits, get electrocuted on high-power lines, etc., but remain among the most abundant mammals on earth today. We have attempted to assemble the literature on all known causes of mortality in bats but cannot, of course, cite all noted occurrences.

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