Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
FIA Project Y103135

    Identification of long-eared myotis bat species in British Columbia: An essential tool for developing management recommendations for bat species at risk.
Project lead: Purnima Govindarajulu (Ministry of Environment)
Contributing Authors: Nagorsen, David; Lausen, Cori; Burles, Doug; Govindarajulu, Purnima
Subject: Forest Investment Account (FIA), British Columbia
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
PROJECT DESCRIPTION REMAINS BASICALLY THE SAME. Paragraphs on 2007 and 2008 progress and 2009 plans are included near the end of this section.

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 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. New technologies (recent DNA research and acoustic analysis software) offer new possibilities for field identification, and could make inventory work much more cost-effective.

BC has four species of long-eared myotis bats: Keenís Myotis, Myotis keenii (provincially Red-listed), Northern Myotis, M. septentrionalis (Blue-listed), 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.

Progress in 2007:
Field work was conducted on Haida Gwaii, near Hazelton, and in the Skagit Valley. Myotis species captured (M. lucifugus as well as long-eared) were measured, photographed, wing punches collected for DNA analysis, and recorded in flight using two different recording systems for echolocation call analysis. Samples have been submitted to two laboratories for DNA work. Echolocation calls will be evaluated by project biologists Doug Burles, Cori Lausen and David Nagorsen over the winter. Support and consultation will be provided by USFS bat biologist Pat Ormsbee and colleagues.

Progress in 2008:
Field work was conducted near Hazelton, in the Skagit Valley, in the Creston Valley, and in the South Okanagan. Cold rainy weather for much of the sampling period resulted in lower capture rates than in 2007. A total of 40 long-eared bats were netted along with 90 other individuals of other species. Samples have been submitted for DNA analysis for the myotis species captured to our two US partner labs. Echolocation calls are being analyzed by Lausen and Nagorsen, with consultation with US biologists. Initial genetic results of mitochondrial DNA are complete for 2007 and intiated for 2008. We are discussing with our US partners the possibility of incorporating nuclear DNA analysis to complement the mtDNA work. This approach has been reported to have some promise for some myotis species (Zinck et al, in prep)

Planned work in 2009:
The team will revisit at least one site in summer 2009 to build sample size. Remainder of the project will focus on completion of DNA analysis and call analysis from the three field seasons, and in preparing project reports. Other sample sites may be included if funding applied for through other agencies is approved.

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.

Dewey, T. 2006. Systematics and Phylogeography of North American Myotis (Chiropera: Vespertilionidae), Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

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.

Zinck, J.M., M.J. Vonhof and P.O. Ormsbee. In prep. Boundaries and gene flow between three species of western North American Myotis.
Related projects:  FSP_Y081135FSP_Y092135
Contact: Purnima Govindarajulu


Executive summary (23Kb)

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Updated August 16, 2010 

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