Here’s why this “Olympian bat” has spooked climate scientists

By: |
August 10, 2021 1:07 PM

This female bat from Nathusius’ pipistrelle species of bats was discovered by a resident named Svetlana Lapina living in a small Russian village called Molgino, Russia.

Olympian bat, Olympian bats flightThe first bat to cover the record breaking distance was from the same species that travelled from Latvia to Spain in 2019 covering a distance of 2,224 km (Photo: Representative image/ Reuters)

A bat called “Olympian bat” (name given by scientists) has left the climate scientists intrigued after the bat broke British records by flying a distance covering more than 2,000 km from London to the Pskov region situated in northwestern Russia.

This female bat from Nathusius’ pipistrelle species of bats was discovered by a resident named Svetlana Lapina living in a small Russian village called Molgino, Russia. He observed that the bat’s arm had been ringed and spotted the term “London Zoo” scribbled on it. Bat recorder Brian Briggs had ringed the bat in London (near Heathrow) back in 2016. At the time it was said to be about the size of a human thumb weighing about 8 grams.

The bat fell prey to a cat after arriving in Russia and got injured. It was later on rescued by a Russian bat rehabilitation group but succumbed to injuries later on.

Is it common for bats to cover such distances?

No! The ‘Olympian’ bat is not one of its kind. The first bat to cover the record breaking distance was from the same species that travelled from Latvia to Spain in 2019 covering a distance of 2,224 km in the past. Published in the journal Nature in November 2020, an article title “The record-setting flight of a bat that weighs less than a toothbrush”, notes that bats belonging to the Nathusius’ pipistrelle species typically weighing less than 10 grams are tend to migrate from summer breeding grounds in northeastern Europe to warmer areas of the place where they hibernate in trees. The article also stated that the creature is so small that it could fit even into a matchbox if its wings were folded.

Why does the bat’s journey hold significance?

The journey is significant undoubtedly because it is the longest distance covered by a bat from Britain across Europe. The journey is important for climate scientists as it gives them the window to learn more about bat migration and how it is connected with climate change. Bat Conservation Trust UK believes that Nathusius’ pipstrelle’s range of bats is linked to climate change and that any climate changes in future will further impact this species.

A project named ‘National Nathusius’ Pipistrelle’ was launched by the Bat Conservation Trust in 2014. The purpose was to understand the conservation threats for Nathusius’ pipistrelles in Great Britain. The primary motto of the project is to find out the migratory origins of this species of bats as it may help understanding its links to climate change. Some evidence shows that birds migrate early because of climate change.

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