Every year, a team of scientists visits Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique to survey its incredible diversity. The scientists range widely in their expertise, from reptiles and amphibians to plants to katydids. I was lucky enough to be invited on the first of these biodiversity surveys, in 2013, as the small mammal specialist. I was tasked with surveying the small terrestrial mammals, like rodents and shrews, as well as bats.
I couldn't have predicted how I'd grow to love those fluttering furballs. Bats are the second most diverse group of mammals in the world, and the number of ways they've come up with to cope with life as a nocturnal, flying mammal is astounding. You can see the evidence of this in their faces; bats echolocate, or use reflected sound, to find their food. But not all echolocation is the same -- different bats make different types of sounds, and process the reflected sound differently, depending on their environment and their evolutionary history. That's why we see such a diversity in ear shape and facial structure (just take a look at the picture to the left!).
In Gorongosa, I continue to return to the annual biodiversity surveys as the bat specialist. So far, we've found 37 species of fruit and insectivorous bats in the park -- and I expect we'll find more. I'm working with photographer Piotr Naskrecki, who is also the associate director of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Lab at Gorongosa National Park, to document our bat diversity in photos. All photos on this page are his.
Guyton, JA and CE Brook. 2015. African Bats: Conservation in the time of Ebola. Therya 6:1. [PDF]