Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
FIA Project Y081135

    Identification of long-eared myotis bat species in British Columbia: An essential tool for developing management recommendations for bat species at risk
Project lead: Friis, Laura (BC Ministry of Environment)
Author: Friis, Laura
Subject: Forest Investment Account (FIA), British Columbia
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
Bats are a significant component of forest biodiversity. Most BC bat species rely on mature or old forest for roosting and foraging. Eight of our 16 species are considered at risk, 3 are Identified Wildlife species under the Forest and Range Practices Act.; several are being considered for Regionally Significant Wildlife designation. Field identification of some of these species can be difficult. This project will develop and test methods to identify, inventory, and evaluate habitat requirements of forest bat species, many of which are listed or regionally significant, enabling development of habitat management recommendations on a species- or group-specific basis. Although the species are difficult to identify, new technologies (recent DNA research and acoustic analysis software) offer new possibilities for field identification, and could make inventory work much more cost-effective. Background: BC has four species of long-eared myotis bats: Keenís Long-eared Myotis, Myotis keenii (provincially Red-listed), Northern Long-eared Myotis, M. septentrionalis (Blue-listed), Western Long-eared Myotis, M. evotis (Yellow-listed, conservation concern), and Fringed Myotis, M. thysanodes (Blue-listed). All are forest bats. The long-eared bats, because of their ear and wing morphology, are adapted to aerial foraging, surface gleaning, and manoeuvrable flight in forested landscapes (Faure and Barclay 1992). They are primarily found in coniferous habitats, and may be important predators of forest pests. Keenís Long-eared Myotis is Red-listed (considered for designation as Endangered or Threatened). It is a forest bat whose range is restricted to the coastal forests of BC, NW Washington and SE Alaska. It is listed in the Identified Wildlife Management Strategy (IWMS) 2004, and regarded as associated with mature/old growth forests. Fringed Myotis, found in the southern interior and southwestern BC, is also included in IWMS 2004. Both Keenís and Fringed Myotis were recently designated Data Deficient by COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada), pending better population and habitat inventory, which cannot be conducted until identification issues are resolved. The problem: Identification of these species during field inventory and surveys. In-hand identification of Keenís and Western Long-eared (found across southern BC), sympatric on the BC coast, is unreliable from external morphology, and identification requires either examination of the skull from a voucher specimen, or DNA sequencing. The range of Northern Long-eared Myotis, which is found in the northern two-thirds of the province and at least as far west as Hazelton, overlaps Western but rarely Keenís; in overlap areas this species can also be confusing. Fringed Myotis is also found on the coast; it can be confused with the other coastal long-eared species and is quite different than interior populations of Fringed. Also, new research suggests that a cryptic species of long-eared bat, currently included in the species complex of Little Brown Myotis (M. lucifugus) occurs in coastal BC. Recent DNA studies (Dewey 2005) identified Keenís as an identifiable clade; additional work is required to clarify relationships of the other long-eared species, to confirm status of Keenís, and to determine the best method of species identification. Developing reliable field identification for long-eared myotis is essential for management and conservation. For example, correct identification of Keenís Long-eared (Red-listed and old/mature forest-associated) and Western Long-eared (Yellow-listed and broader in its habitat associations) is critical to assess presence of either species and thus make appropriate management recommendations. Since Keenís Long-eared Myotis and Fringed Myotis are both listed species and IWMS species, identification difficulties are hindering inventory of and research on these species, and thus preventing development of effective management recommendations for forest-based activities under FRPA. Proposed solutions: ē Evaluate DNA analysis of wing tissue and fecal samples to identify species. Initial work is underway in the US, on wing tissues biopsied during field work (Dewey 2005). A second promising technique is looking at DNA from fecal pellets, reducing the need to handle bats (samples can be collected at roost sites, and from captured bats) (Zinck and Vonhof 2005). This could be a field technique for industry workers, though still requiring expertise for final identification. ē Evaluate full-spectrum analysis of bat calls for species identification. If the technique can be verified through vouchers and DNA, field surveys could be much easier to conduct. This technique is also being developed in the US northwest, and has shown promise in separating other hard-to-identify myotis species (Yuma Myotis [M. yumanensis] and Little Brown Myotis) (Weller et al 2005). It can also be used for identifying other forest bat species, reducing the need to capture bats for identification. ē Determine which combination of these techniques plus standard measurements gives the most reliable identifications. References Alberta Fish and Wildlife Division. 2006. Handbook of inventory methods and standard protocols for surveying bats in Alberta. Alberta F&W Division, Edmonton, Alberta. 63pp. Dewey, T.A. 2005. Combining phylogenetic and coalescent approaches to resolve the recent evolutionary history of North American long-eared myotis species. Presented at North American Symposium on Bat Research, Sacramento CA, Oct. 2005. Faure, P.A. and R.M.R. Barclay. 1992. The sensory basis of prey detection by the long-eared bat, Myotis evotis, and the consequences for prey selection. Anim. Behav. 44:31-39. Nagorsen, D.W. and R.M. Brigham. 1993. The Bats of British Columbia. Royal British Columbia Museum Handbook. UBC Press, Vancouver, BC. 164 pp. Ormsbee, P., T. Weller and J. Szewczak. 2006. Collecting echolocation calls from captured bats. Unpublished draft protocol, Western Bat Working Group. Resource Inventory Committee. 1998. Live Animal Capture and handling Guidelines for Wild Mammals, Birds, Amphibians and Reptiles. Standards for Components of British Columbiaís Biodiversity No. 3 Version 2.0. MELP, Victoria, BC. 50 pp. Resource Inventory Committee. 1998. Inventory Methods for Bats. Standards for Components of British Columbiaís Biodiversity No. 20 Version 2.0. MELP, Victoria, BC. 58 pp. Weller, T.J., S.A. Scott, P.C. Ormsbee and J.M. Zinck. 2005. In search of simple characters to distinguish Myotis lucifugus and M. yumanensis in the field. Poster, NASBR, Sacramento CA, Oct. 2005. Western Bat Working Group: WBWG. 2006. Bat Grid Draft Protocol. (Not yet available for public release). Zinck, J.M. and M. Vonhof. 2005. A coprogenetic method for ex situ, non-invasive species identification using microarray technology: an overview of the technology and its practical application. Presented at NASBR, Sacramento CA, Oct. 2005.
Related projects:  FSP_Y092135FSP_Y103135
Contact: Friis, Laura, (250) 387-9763,


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Updated August 16, 2010 

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