1. The first one 'Group size, survival and surprisingly short lifespan in socially foraging bats' was published in BMC ecology.
Overview of the publication: To test if and how social group size affects survival in bats, we studied Pallas’s mastiff bat Molossus molossus (Pallas, 1766), a species that forms stable social groups that roost and forage together. Based on recaptures from 14 mixed-sex groups of thespecies in Panama, we found relatively small and intermediate, but stable groups, with a mean size of 9.6 ± 6.7 adults and juveniles. Strong selection towards small group size may result from psychoacoustic and cognitive constraints related to acoustic interference in social foraging and the complexity of coordinated flight. The short lifespans were unexpected and may result from life at the energetic edge due to a highly specialized diet. Median survival of females was very short with 1.8 years and a maximum estimated longevity of 5.6 years. Contrary to our expectations, we found no relationship between variation in group size and survival, a result similar to few other studies. The absence of a relationship between group size and survival may reflect a similar but optimized survival within the selected range of group sizes. We expect the pattern of small group sizes will be consistent in future research on species dependent on social information transfer about ephemeral resources.
2. The second one 'The value of molecular vs. morphometric and acoustic information for species identification using sympatric molossid bats' was published in Plos One. A press release of the publication is available in german on the website of the IZW Berlin.
Overview of the publication: A fundamental condition for any work with free-ranging animals is correct species identification. However, in case of bats, information on local species assemblies is frequently limited especially in regions with high biodiversity such as the Neotropics. The bat genus Molossus is a typical example of this, with morphologically similar species often occurring in sympatry. We used a multi-method approach based on molecular, morphometric and acoustic information collected from 962 individuals of Molossus bondae, M. coibensis, and M. molossus captured in Panama. We distinguished M. bondae based on size and pelage coloration. We identified two robust species clusters composed of M. molossus and M. coibensis based on 18 microsatellite markers but also on a more stringently determined set of four markers. Phylogenetic reconstructions using the mitochondrial gene co1 (DNA barcode) were used to diagnose these microsatellite clusters as M. molossus and M. coibensis. To differentiate species, morphological information was only reliable when forearm length and body mass were combined in a linear discriminant function (95.9% correctly identified individuals). When looking in more detail at M. molossus and M. coibensis, only four out of 13 wing parameters were informative for species differentiation, with M. coibensis showing lower values for hand wing area and hand wing length and higher values for wing loading. Acoustic recordings after release required categorization of calls into types, yielding only two informative subsets: approach calls and two-toned search calls. Our data emphasizes the importance of combining morphological traits and independent genetic data to inform the best choice and combination of discriminatory information used in the field. Because parameters can vary geographically, the multi-method approach may need to be adjusted to local species assemblies and populations to be entirely informative.