Get Packing: Bat Biology

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For the second season of the Museum’s web series Shelf Life, we’re taking you around the world with Museum scientists.

The latest episode follows researcher Angelo Soto-Centeno and others to Cuba on the Explore21 Expedition, where he studies the island nation’s numerous bat species. Here’s how a bat biologist packs for the field, and how some of the most important pieces of gear are used.

 


Gloves: Bats are generally super docile, but like any wild animal, a few of them might try to bite as a way of defending themselves when being handled. While many bat species are small and their tiny teeth cannot break the skin, some of them can give a powerful and painful bite.

Headlamp: Whether I go out in the day or night, I always work in dark conditions because I study bats. Headlamps allow me to spot the animals in the roost so that I can estimate how many individuals are there, and they keep my hands free so that I can easily handle the bats.

Researcher wearing headlamp, removing a bat from a net

Headlamps are a must for working with bats in the field. © AMNH


Biopsy punches: These are very important tools for sampling bat tissues in a non-invasive way. Punches have a very sharp circular blade at the tip, used to cut a tiny piece of wing tissue for genetic studies.

Boxes for genetic samples: These are specifically designed to fit individual tubes that we use to store the tissue samples we collect from the bats. Up to 100 sample tubes can be stored and organized in a box, which also protects them from breaking if they’re subjected to impact. 

 

Learn more about Cuban bats in the special exhibition ¡Cuba!, now open to the public and free for Members.