Physiology of Bat Migration in Latvia

Duration of the project

26.07.2011. - 15.12.2011.

Countries and institutions involved in the project

Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies
Leibniz Institute

Description of the project

The project „Physiology of bat migration in Latvia“ was carried out between 26th of July and 15th of December 2011 by the Latvian Agricultural University Jelgava (Latvia) and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Berlin, Germany). The main goal of the project was to test an innovative method, established by the German collaborators, for studying the oxidative fuel use in migratory bats based on the stable carbon isotope ratio of exhaled breath. During the course of the project, a field seminar was held between 18th and 22nd of August 2011 at the Centre for Ornithological Research in Pape, Latvia. Two German colleagues and 18 Latvian scientists, students and biologists from the Latvia University of Agriculture, Latvian University, University of Daugavpils and Latvian Society of Ornithology participated in the seminar.  During the seminar, PD Dr. Voigt explained the theory of using stable carbon isotope ratios to examine the metabolism and fuel choice of migratory bats. The participants of the seminar learned to collect the exhaled breath of captured migratory bats.

The Latvian colleagues continued the sample collection until the 5th of September. The samples were shipped to the laboratory for stable isotope analysis at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research. Results of the analysis shed new light on important aspects of the metabolism of migratory bats. The feeding experiments revealed that migratory bats primarly use ingested insect proteins as an oxidative fuel to power their migratory flight; all insect fat is probably routed to fat deposits. Later at night, bats switch to an exclusive use of fatty acids as an oxidative fuel. The results of this project have been submitted to an international, peer-reviewed journal: Voigt, C.C., Sörgel, K., Keiss, O., Šuba J., Petersons, G. Insectivorous bats use a mixed-fuel strategy to power migratory flights.

Further measures to establish an intense collaboration about the migration of bats in Latvia have been made by all project partners. Currently, more fur samples are being collected in Latvia to unravel when exactly northern populations of migratory bat species pass through the area of Pape during autumn migration.