A rare species of Mediterranean bat that normally feeds on insects has learned to hunt for scalier fare, scientists say. As part of a routine study of the endangered long-fingered bat, biologists at the University of the Basque were combing through bat droppings when they uncovered something surprising: the remains of small, surface-dwelling fish.
By tracking the flying mammals on camera, the scientists discovered that these bats skim the tops of nearby rivers and ponds to snag fish. "We didn't think fishing was among the habits of these bats,"says lead researcher Ostaizka Aizpurua-Arrieta, citing the animals' diminutive size -- each bat weighs about the same as four pennies. Moreover, the bats can't use echolocation to detect what's underwater, because the surface deflects the high-pitched sound waves.
Over the three-year span of the study, the bats' fishing prowess increased, scooping up more and more fish each year. This could mean there's more prey in the water, the authorswrite, but it's also possible the bats became better fishers.