Mozzies motivate the movements of microbats

May 9, 2013
Dr Leroy Gonsalves from Australian Catholic University with a 'Vespadelus vulturnus' bat.

( —Picnic saboteurs or valuable food source? While the humble mosquito is not welcome buzzing around and sharing viruses with humans, it has a valuable ecological role to play as a prey item for insectivorous bats, research contributed to by the University of Sydney has found.

Balancing the competing needs of environmental conservation and human health is critical. As urbanisation threatens wildlife and its habitats the very wildlife we are trying to protect may sometimes pose risks to our own health.

"Despite decades of work investigating the role of mosquitoes in spreading disease, we still don't know how important they are to our ," said Dr Cameron Webb, from the University's Department of Medical Entomology and Westmead Hospital.

Dr Cameron Webb joined a multi-disciplinary team led by Dr Leroy Gonsalves at Australian Catholic University to examine the role of mosquitoes as prey for bats as part of a broader project investigating potential indirect effects of on the diet of small forest bats.

Findings of this study, "Foraging Ranges of Insectivorous Bats Shift Relative to Changes in Mosquito Abundance," were published today in PLOS ONE.

The article presents the results of a radio-tracking study in which the research team tracked the movements of a small (4g) bat species Vespadelus vulturnus, little forest bat during two periods of contrasting extremes of mosquito abundance.

Vespadelus vulturnus, a predator of mosquitoes, shifted from foraging in endangered coastal saltmarsh to endangered coastal swamp forest communities.

"The shift in foraging range of V. vulturnus was relative to changes in abundance of mosquitoes (and no other prey) in these two habitats, highlighting the importance of mosquitoes as prey for this ," Dr Gonsalves said.

This study was the first in Australia to provide quantitative data about the importance of to insectivorous bat diet by assessing whether foraging ranges of predators shift in relation to mosquito abundance and distribution. Important recommendations that may be applied to the management of pest and vector mosquito species while protecting local wildlife that use these as are also presented in the article.

"This research is critical for the development of strategies that can reduce mosquito-borne disease risk while protecting our local mozzie eating wildlife," said Dr Webb.

Explore further: An underground mozzie that postpones its blood feast

More information:

Related Stories

An underground mozzie that postpones its blood feast

June 20, 2012

( -- A secretive and exotic species of mosquito, found across much of Australia, has revealed a new twist on the insect's famous 'blood-sucking' reputation to researchers at the University of Sydney.

Acacia trees crucial to Israel's desert bats, study finds

February 20, 2013

Greater conservation of threatened acacia trees is needed to preserve vulnerable species of rare insectivorous bats in Israel, according to new research by biologists at the University of Bristol. Dense areas of flourishing ...

Bats not bothered by forest fires, study finds

March 6, 2013

A survey of bat activity in burned and unburned areas after a major wildfire in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains found no evidence of detrimental effects on bats one year after the fire. The findings suggest that bats ...

Recommended for you

Study finds 'rudimentary' empathy in macaques

December 1, 2015

(—A pair of researchers with Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Université Lyon, in France has conducted a study that has shown that macaques have at least some degree of empathy towards their fellow ...

Scientists overcome key CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing hurdle

December 1, 2015

Researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT have engineered changes to the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing system that significantly cut down on "off-target" ...

Trap-jaw ants exhibit previously unseen jumping behavior

December 1, 2015

A species of trap-jaw ant has been found to exhibit a previously unseen jumping behavior, using its legs rather than its powerful jaws. The discovery makes this species, Odontomachus rixosus, the only species of ant that ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.