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Climate Change May be Helping Bats Spread Across Europe

First Posted: Feb 10, 2016 11:26 AM EST

Climate change may actually be helping bats. Scientists have found that changing temperatures are likely behind the extraordinary spread of a type of vesper bat across Europe over the last four decades.

The bat, in this case, are called Pipistrelles. These bats are very adaptable, and can roost and thrive in a variety of landscapes, including urban areas.

In this latest study, the researchers collected 25,132 high-resolution records of where the bat occurred in Europe between 1980 and 2013. These were used in conjunction with various models to predict whether the colonization of new areas over the years has been prompted by increased urbanization or by changes in the climate.

When first recorded, this bat was found over large areas of North Africa, southern Europe and western Asia. In southern Europe, its distribution was originally confined to the Mediterranean basin. By the 1990s, the bat was also reported in northern France and Bulgaria, and even made it to the United Kingdom to the north and the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Poland.

So how did it extend to all these locations? It's largely in response to warmer temperatures. Because there are warmer winter temperatures at higher latitudes, the bats can survive in new locations.

"According to our work, the Kuhl's pipstrelle is a 'winner' in the context of climate change," said Ancillotto, one of the researchers, in a news release. "Given its high ecological flexibility, it might be strong competition to other bats in the regions that it newly occupies, and have serious consequences on bat assemblages."

The findings are published in the journal The Science of Nature.

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