Resource Fluctuations and Animal Movement
Resources fluctuate in their availability daily, seasonally and sometimes unpredictably. We are interested in the strategies animals have developed to deal with resource fluctuations, especially long and short distance movement, and how this can be optimized by social information transfer and alternative strategies in animals that cannot follow resources in space.
See below for project overviews.
Current Lab News
As the only flying mammals, bats have numerous unique life history traits. One of these traits is how quickly pups must grow up, but now we’re learning about the specific behaviors both pups and mothers use to deal with this rapid transition. And they’re as unique as the bats themselves.
Curious? Here is the Link to the paper:
See below for past lab news.
Eidolon may (still) be the most numerous mammal of Africa and yet what we know about this bat barely scratches the surface. We study the unique long-distance migration of this species in one of the ICARUS pilot projects. We aim to understand how this massive movement across the African continent is driven by environmental factors, but facilitated by exploding information networks of gigantic colonies informing individual decisions. By feeding our data and conclusions into studies about the spread of diseases of human concern, this will also contribute to understanding the actual role fruit bats play in this urgent topic.
We study bats that are highly specialized on ephemeral resources. How does the availability of resources in time and space affect foraging efficiency? How are these foraging challenges overcome through information transfer by different modalities? And finally how is this linked to the metabolism and physiology of the bats?
Most of our work focuses on bats, which fly and can cover distances up to several thousand kilometers to escape food shortage or harsh conditions. But what does a small temperate-zone mammal do when seasons present environmental challenges? In a project focusing on red-toothed shrews, we study Dehnel's Phenomenon - a reversible individual size change that includes mass, size, the skull, several major organs and especially our focus - the brain.
The common noctule (Nyctalus noctula) is the one species where we combine the link of long- and short-distance movement and sociality. All European bats that have long-distance migration at all are sex-dimorphic in this behavior with only the females migrating or migrating longer distances. This means that in addition to the energy demanding reproductive period they also need to power migration and to fit all this into the brief time between hibernation periods.
Past Lab News
Spring migration has ended for our Noctules. With a big group effort we tracked several individuals for insights into migration flight altitude. We were also joined by a tenacious film crew hoping to capture the action.
We completed our first bat box checks in Bischofszell and Frauenfeld in spring 2018 and found many noctules preparing to migrate, 47 bats in one box alone!
Our Shrew-Crew member Javier Lazaro successfully defended his PhD with the title “Causes and consequences of seasonal changes in the braincase and brain size of the common shrew Sorex araneus” on the 15.3.2018. Congratulations, Javi!
Our research on shrews counts to the highlights 2017 of the Max-Planck Society! Click here to check out other interesting findings and research topics which are the most important ones of 2017: https://www.mpg.de/research-highlights-2017
Congratulations Javi for your next paper about shrews with the title "Cognitive skills of common shrews (Sorex araneus.
) vary with seasonal changes in skull size and brain mass".
Francisco Amorim from Portugal is visiting our lab for one month and already gave us a great talk about "The importance of (bat) monitoring: From windfarms to optimized monitoring networks".
A collaboration across 6 institutes in 4 countries allowed the scientists to see intimate details about the way these bats lower their hearts rates in 5 minute cycles when they rest during the day - something really unusual!
Check out the paper: https://elifesciences.org/articles/26686
A weekend in the Italian Alps for proposal writing and discussion, but lots of laughter, good food, and puppy love too.
Dina invited as key note speaker for Trends in Biodiversity and Evolution's annual meeting in Vairão, Portugal for the theme bio-logging, and shares about the challenges of studying bats!
During the past 6 weeks, 12 masters students from Universität Konstanz joined the Dechmann lab to track migrating noctules for the course "Going Wild" hosted by the institute!
Our sabbatical guest Sharon Swartz and her husband Eric have been a part of our group for the past nine months. Thank you for many inspiring discussions, expert advice and wonderful company. You will be deeply missed!
As a farewell outing we visited the Seealpsee and Ebenalp in Appenzell.
Every spring and autumn we check bat boxes in Kreuzlingen, Frauenfeld and Bischofszell.