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MammalsSpecies Animal

Plecotus macrobullaris

Plecotus macrobullaris

The Alpine long-eared bat (Plecotus macrobullaris Kuzjakin, 1965) is a bat belonging to the Vespertilionidae family.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Animalia,
Phylum Chordata,
Mammalia class,
Superorder Laurasiatheria,
Order Chiroptera,
Suborder Microchiroptera,
Family Vespertilionidae,
Subfamily Vespertilioninae,
Genus Plecotus,
Species P. macrobullaris.
The terms are synonymous:
– Plecotus alpinus Kiefer & Veith, 2002;
– Plecotus austriacus subsp. macrobullaris Kuzyakin, 1965;
– Plecotus microdontus Spitzenberger, 2002.
Within this species the following subspecies are recognized by some authors:
– Plecotus macrobullaris subsp. alpinus;
– Plecotus macrobullaris subsp. macrobullaris.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Plecotus macrobullaris is a bat widespread in an area that includes southern Europe and the Near East. In detail it is found from the central-eastern part of the Pyrenees, between France, Spain and Andorra, across the entire Alpine range, from south-eastern France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, southern Germany, Austria up to Slovenia, the Adriatic coasts of Croatia and Serbia, northern Albania, southern Greece, the Peloponnese and the island of Crete, up to much of Anatolia, northern and southwestern Syria, southwestern Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan up to Iran northwestern and the central part of the Zagros Mountains. In Italy it is present in the alpine areas of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto, Lombardy, Piedmont and Liguria.
In general it lives in hilly and mountainous environments, mainly karst in oak, beech and pine forests up to 2,800 meters above sea level.
However, its habitat is quite varied. In Croatia it is found in all areas from sea level to the mountain tops, above the treeline. It occupies Mediterranean oak forests, but also beech and pine forests. The highest record is 2800 m in the Pyrenees. In the Eastern Alps the resting places are located in the attics of churches, no winter shelters are known (Spitzenberger 2002), the highest record here is 1720 m (Spitzenberger 2006). In the Western Alps it has been observed up to 2800 meters and often resting in churches (S. pers. com. Aulagnier. 2007).

Description –
The Plecotus macrobullaris is a medium-sized bat, with a forearm length of about 4 centimeters and a body weight ranging from 6 to 10 grams.
It has light gray fur all over its body, fading to white on the underparts, and with a dark brown face.
The ears are huge, oval, brown, joined on the forehead by a thin skin membrane.
The tragus is about half the length of the auricle, tapered and with a blunt end.
The wing membranes are brown and semi-transparent.
The toes are covered in brownish hair and equipped with strong pale claws.
The tail is long and completely included in the large uropatagium.
There is no distinction in the size or coloration of the sexes.
Its echolocation calls are similar to those of other bats and consist of very weak multiharmonic signals, with the first harmonic ranging from 46 to 23 kHz and lasting up to 7 milliseconds.

Biology –
The Plecotus macrobullaris is a bat that has a flexible habitat, as it is found taking refuge both in natural crevices of rocks in the Pyrenees, but it prefers the attics of human homes in the Alps. The roosts are sometimes shared with other similar species, but this is unusual. While males change their roosting location almost every day, females tend to remain in the same site for long periods, congregating in colonies of 5 to 25 individuals.
It takes refuge in groups of up to 50 individuals inside buildings. In winter it prefers caves and other underground shelters. It forms nurseries, frequently observed in churches.
As for reproduction, they give birth to one young at a time between June and July.

Ecological Role –
Plecotus macrobullaris was initially described as a new subspecies in 1965 by A. Kuzjakin, who considered it a subspecies of the bat Plecotus auritus. Its trinomen at the time was Plecotus auritus macrobullaris. Andreas Kiefer and Michael Veith described a new taxon, Plecotus alpinus, in the 2001 volume of the journal Myotis, but the name was made available only in 2002. Also in 2002, another group of authors led by Friederike Spitzenberger described the same species under the name Plecotus microdontus. DNA analysis showed that both “species” were synonymous, and according to the principle of priority, the older name should apply to this species. However, in 2003, it was established that both P. alpinus and P. microdontus were synonymous with the earlier taxon described by Kuzyakin in 1965, which was later elevated to species status as Plecotus macrobullaris.
Its species name “macrobullaris” comes from the Ancient Greek “makrós” meaning “long” and the Latin “bulla” meaning “knob-shaped”, perhaps referring to the auditory bulla.
The species status of P. macrobullaris has been recognized, for the first time, in Alpine populations.
Similar in size and behavior to P. auritus, being a recently recognized species (2003), it is little known. However, it appears to be generally rare and with a fragmented distribution. The colonies are made up of few individuals, less than 50. Molecular analyzes have confirmed that the populations of the different mountain ranges are genetically isolated.
It mainly inhabits mountainous and steep terrain, up to a maximum of 2,800 meters but has been known to reach sea level in some locations.
In 2015, it was reported that the species contains two distinct mitochondrial lineages, which diverged from each other over 1 million years ago. However, it is unclear whether or not the lineages are distinct in other respects, and thus whether or not they should still be considered distinct subspecies.
Its diet is composed almost exclusively of nocturnal moths, caught in flight over clearings or pastures, among which the species of the Noctuidae family stand out. Hunt in open environments such as meadows and prairies, including alpine meadows.
From the point of view of conservation status, the IUCN Red List, considering the vast range and despite human pressure towards its usual refuges, classifies P.macrobullaris as a species of minimal risk (Least Concern).

Guido Bissanti

– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Gordon Corbet, Denys Ovenden, 2012. Guide to the mammals of Europe. Franco Muzzio Editore.
– John Woodward, Kim Dennis-Bryan, 2018. The great encyclopedia of animals. Gribaudo Publisher.

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