Increase in Bats in Iceland

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Increase in Bats in Iceland

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Nathusius’s pipistrelle. Photo: Icelandic Museum of Natural History.

Iceland has been virtually bat-free in the past but in recent times there have been about 40 individuals of the flying mammal recorded in the country, according to ornithologist Ævar Petersen and biologist Finnur Ingimarsson, who along with other scientists wrote an article on bats in Iceland and on other North Atlantic isles in the June 2014 Acta Chiropterologica, published by the Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Sciences.

In the article the bats recorded from Iceland, the Faroe Islands, the Shetland Islands, the Orkney Islands and North Sea installations are reviewed to the end of 2012. In total 12 species have been positively identified, while a considerable proportion of all records are sightings of unidentified bats. Eight of the species are European in origin and four originate from the New World. About 40 recorded bats have found their way to Iceland.

The article states that the largest number of species (8) has been recorded in Iceland, but the greatest number of individuals (180) has been found in Orkney. The bat invasion on the Faroe Islands in 2010 is without precedence, when 70 observations of a minimum of 45 individuals were noted. Most bat observations in the study area occurred in the autumn, with fewer in the spring. Most observations were of single animals, but there were also sightings of up to 12 individuals.

There has been a marked increase in bat records in the past three decades. The authors discuss whether this is a real increase, or due to improved communications, increased public awareness, increased shipping, changes in weather patterns and/or the effects of climate change.

In Iceland most of the bats have been seen in the Southwest, especially in Reykjavík. Most of the animals probably arrived with freight ships. The bats that have made their way to Iceland are not large. The most common is Nathusius’s pipistrelle (Pipistrellus nathusii) a small bat about 3 cm long with long wings. 

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