Jamie Guerra, Universidad San Francisco de Quito
Host: Monika Havelka
Although bats are the second largest order of mammals, they have remained poorly studied, especially in the Neotropics where their diversity reaches its pinnacle. A team led by Tom Kunz, Christian Voigt and myself has been able to confirm that Yasuní National Park in Ecuador houses an amazing 100 species of these flying mammals. For some contrast, most regions in North America are home to fewer than 10 species. In Yasuní, bat species range widely in size (from < 5 grams to 140 grams). While many temperate zone species are insectivorous, only a small percentage of local species actually feed on insects; most Yasuní species are fruit specialists, while some consume nectar, frogs, other bats or even fish. Bats are often described as being nocturnal ecological equivalents to diurnal birds, and in Yasuní, their diversity provides much greater support for this perspective. The fact that so many species live together in this ecosystem tells us that some extreme specializations have yet to be documented. Because bats occupy so many habitats and niches, and because they are quite sensitive to environmental changes, their distributions and relative abundances serve well as indicators of environmental quality.
Dr. Jaime Guerra is a researcher with the Natural Science Museum of Ecuador and the former director of the Tiputini Biodiversity Station (USFQ) in Orellana Province, Ecuador. With collaborators from Boston University and other institutions, he has conducted a variety of faunal inventories of Western Amazonia.