In this study, the spatial behaviour and habitat use of the two sympatrically occurring long-eared bat species Plecotus auritus and Plecotus austriacus in Havelland (Brandenburg) was investigated. The data collection was carried out in the period from 2013 to 2015 with the inclusion of various investigation methods, including mist net trapping, radio telemetry, as well as seasonally differentiated analysis of faeces and feeding residues from selected roosts. Despite their ecomorphological similarity and thus niche overlap, Plecotus auritus and Plecotus austriacus have remarkable differences in their spatial behavior and habitat use: the total activity areas (100% Minimum Convex Polygons, MCP) of Plecotus austriacus were up to five times larger compared to Plecotus auritus. The activity areas of Plecotus austriacus contained up to 11 different core (hunting) areas, which were about three times the size of the core (hunting) areas of Plecotus auritus. P. austriacus hunted at distances of up to 6 km from his daily roosts, which were found exclusively in buildings. While P. austriacus was most often located over pastures > (40%) and meadows > (20%), P. auritus was mostly located in patchy deciduous > (50%) and mixed forests > (-30%) in close proximity (500 m) to its quarters.

Given the small differences in body measurements and the large phenotypic similarity of the two species, this enormous behavioral difference seems very interesting and raises a number of questions. How can species realize such different spatial strategies given their similar organismic abilities and limitations?

In this study, the spatial behaviour and habitat use of the two sister species brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus) and grey long-eared bat (Plecotus austricacus) was investigated (Figure: N. Starik)

Although P. auritus and P. austriacus occur here in the same habitat, they may have developed different preferences for different subsets of the limiting resource, which could be accompanied by significant changes in habitat use in sympatric occurrences. The ecological differentiation that allows these two species to coexist in their environment therefore seems to be mainly due to the spatial allocation of resources.

The combination of these results gives reason to take greater account of these interspecific ecological differences and species-specific requirements of P. auritus and P. austriacus, e.B. in planning projects, but also in order to adapt the current protective measures.

Original study:

Starik, N., Göttert, T., & Zeller, U. (2021). Spatial Behavior and Habitat Use of Two Sympatric Bat Species. Animals, 11(12), 3460. DOI: 10.3390/ani11123460

Comparative studies on the spatial behaviour of brown and grey long-eared bat in Brandenburg