Investigating the diet of the Ghost Bat

by Brighton Downing
in Blog
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The Ghost Bat is Australia’s largest microbat and one of the Pilbara’s threatened species frequently encountered by mining developers of the region. As with all appropriate management, understanding the species ecological requirements is an integral step in avoiding impacts. However, there remain many things still unknown about this enigmatic species. 

Until recently, very little was understood about the species’ diet in the Pilbara. As part of survey work being conducted by Biologic, faecal samples were collected from known roosts throughout the region. DNA from these faecal samples was extracted and analysed to investigate the diet of the species as part of an industry collaboration with staff from the University of Western Australia, Curtin University, Perth Zoo, regional specialists and Morgan O’Connell, Director of Biologic.

The study revealed that Ghost Bats prey on 46 vertebrate taxa. Among the favourites are Budgerigars and Little Buttonquail, common birds of the region. Understanding the Ghost Bats’ dietary preferences will provide insight into how this species is coping with the effects of anthropogenic change, to ensure its’ continued survival within the region.

Arteaga Claramunt, A. M., White, N. E., Bunce, M., O’Connell, M., Bullen, R. D., & P.R, M. (2018). Determination of the diet of the Ghost bat (Macroderma gigas) in the Pilbara region of Western Australia from dried prey remains and DNA metabarcoding. Australian Journal of Zoology.

Link to article here: http://www.publish.csiro.au/ZO/ZO18040.

Gilbert's Potoroo Action Group Fundraising

by Tali Moyle
in Blog
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The Gilbert's Potoroo was thought to be extinct for over 100 years before it was rediscovered at Two Peoples Bay near Albany in 1994. The species is now listed as Critically Endangered with only 100 individuals known alive. 

One of our Senior Zoologists, Tali Moyle, along with the other members of the Gilbert’s Potoroo team, will be abseiling off a 40 storey Building (QV1) on the 13th April 2019 to help raise money for this species. Money will go the Gilbert’s Potoroo Action Group (GPAG) which will help towards research and recovery programs and promotion and awareness of this threatened species.

 

Here is a link to their fundraising page: mycause.com.au/page/192353

 

You can find out more about Gilbert's Potoroo and the fantastic work being done by the Gilbert's Potoroo Action Group volunteers by following them on Twitter @gilbertspotoroo or Facebook @GilbertsPotorooActionGroup or visiting their website at www.potoroo.org.

Common Western Hangingfly

by Dr Nihara Gunawardene
in Blog
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Species in focus: Common Western Hangingfly

Mecoptera: Bittacidae: Harpobittacus similis

During a recent survey of a wetland south of Perth, we regularly encountered a large orange fly-looking insect hanging from the end of twigs. Initially we thought it might have been a fly or a wasp having a rest on a twig but after observing their gentle take-off, we realised we were not looking at either a wasp or a fly but in fact another flying insect, the Common Western Hangingfly.

Harpobittacus similis is a bright orange, large flying insect native to the south west of Western Australia. It belongs to a family of Mecoptera (Scorpionflies and Hangingflies), which is an Order of insects found throughout the world. Scorpionflies or Hangingflies are predatory insects generally named for their distinctive abdomens which make them appear similar to the eponymous arachnid. However, they are not true flies (Diptera) but are often mistaken as flies due to their long wings and mouth parts. The Bittacidae Family are called hangingflies due to their habit of hanging from vegetation to catch prey. Their elongated legs with modified predatory claws allow them to grasp at small insects flying past. They then insert their proboscis into the prey and feed on its body fluids.

The Common Western Scorpionfly is well-known for its mating behaviour of males providing nuptial gifts to females prior to copulation. They are easily observed due to their large size and bright colouration. Males commonly hang from vegetation proffering gifts of insect prey they captured while sending out pheromonal signals to nearby females. Research has shown that females choose mates according to the size of the insect prey offered and copulation duration is related to the size of the gift (Bornemissza 1966, Gwynne 1984). So at least, in this world of the Common Western Hangingfly, size most certainly does matter.

 

Photo credit: https://www.friendsofqueensparkbushland.org.au/harpobittacus-similis/ (S. Mawson)

 

References

Bornemissza, G.ZF. (1966). Observation on the hunting and mating behaviours of two species of scorpionflies (Bittacidae: Mecoptera). Australian Journal of Zoology, 14:371-382.

Gwynne, D.T. (1984). Nuptial feeding behaviour and female choice of mates in Harpobittacus similis (Mecoptera: Bittacidae). Journal of the Australian Entomological Society, 23: 271-276.