Baobabs and bats – new publication on the influence of the landscape and plant traits on fruiting success

Baobab (Adansonia digitata) trees are iconic symbols of the arid lands of continental Africa, and aside from some populations in Southern Africa are largely dependent on fruit bats for pollination. However, the bats visit a diversity of plant species to meet their energetic and nutritional needs, so the pollination service they provide the baobabs may be influenced by the landscape context of individual trees. In collaboration with Dr Paul Webala, Macy Krishnamoorthy set out to determine the relative contribution of individual plant traits, namely tree height and girth, and landscape features and context (e.g., the distance of baobab trees to conspecifics, distances to resources that might attract or distract bats, land use) to baobab reproductive success. Very ably assisted by Mr Michael Bartonjo, she mapped more than 700 baobab trees in ~10 km2 area in Kenya, measured them, and derived a number of landscape variables for each tree. She counted the number of fruit per baobab as a measure of reproductive success.

A mighty baobab with Paul Webala’s magic field bus beneath it for scale

So what did she find? Perhaps not surprisingly, larger trees were more likely to produce fruit and produce more fruit, but landscape variables also played a role, but in a complex and scale-dependent way. The importance of distance to and density of alternate food resources changed with scale, but generally, pawpaws tended to act as attractants whereas figs distracted bats from their role as pollinators.

Eopmorphorus wahlbergi – one of the fruit bat species known to pollinate baobabs

You can read the full story here:

Krishnamoorthy, M.A., Webala, P.W. & Kingston, T. Baobab fruiting is driven by scale-dependent mediation of plant size and landscape features. Landsc Ecol (2022).

Macy in a baobab tree! Baobab trees can live for well over 1000 years and reach up to 5 m in diameter at breast height, so they make for good climbing.

Fieldwork was fun but arduous and there are many people in Kenya to thank! A special thank you to Macy’s local host Daniel Ngei and his family, the local chief Joseph Kavui and all the landowners in the villages of Kaai, Kalesi, Kaluku South, Kandundu, Katithini, Kavui, Kawula, Kiwaani, Mutoleka, Ngieni East, Ngieni West and Yungamaduu who generously allowed us to sample baobabs or others fruiting trees on their lands. Funding for the project came from Bat Conservation Internationa, the Association of Biologists at Texas Tech University, and the Department of Biological Sciences at TTU.

Bats love the baobab flowers, but the fruits are quite a local snack for people. Here they have been dyed green to be sold for $0.05 a bag.

Another New Publication!

Tigga, Abby, and Elaine are authors in “Global Medicinal Use of Bats: A Systematic Literature and Social Media Review” that was published in Diversity. This paper quantifies the various uses of bats, such as for food or medicine, around the world by their IUCN regions. It was determined that, “Consumption for food was prevalent in regions of Asia, Africa, and Oceania, whereas medicinal use was most commonly reported in South Asia (where it exceeded consumption for food), Southeast Asia, and to a lesser extent, Africa and South America.” The paper also quantifies the various aliments that are treated with bats.

The global distribution type and quality of ailment treated by bat divided into IUCN regions and subregions.

New Paper: A machine learning framework to classify Southeast Asian echolocating bats

The publications keep coming! Tigga and Joe are co-authors on “A machine learning framework to classify Southeast Asian echolocating bats” that just came out in Ecological Indicators. This paper has all you can ask for, if what you’re asking for is using machine learning to classify bat calls in Southeast Asia. Field rats take note: “Our framework allows users to rapidly filter acoustic files for common species and isolate files of interest, cutting the total volume of data to be processed by 86%.” Not only a time saver, but this increases the capacity of researchers to use non-invasive sampling in regions without species-specific call records and can detect species that are often missed when employing other sampling methods.

The four call types used in the Borneo bat classifier and representation of bat ensembles in Borneo, their corresponding call types, and species/sonotypes used to train the bat call classifier.

Ten New Bat Records from Nigeria!

Iroro, Ben, and Tigga recently published ten new species-level bat records from Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary and Cross River National Park in southeastern Nigeria. These new records are especially exciting because Nigeria is both under-sampled and a biodiversity hotspot! Check out the full publication “Hidden Afrotropical Bat Diversity in Nigeria: Ten New Country Records from a Biodiversity Hotspot

Left: Portraits of 34 bats captured during the field survey at Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary and Cross River National Park. M. torquata (e), R. hillorum (j), H. curtus (n), M. inflatus (x), G. cf. humeralis (aa), G. egeria (cc), K. cuprosa (dd), K. phalaena (ff), and N. eisentrauti (hh) are all new country records.

ChiroVox online public call library and accompanying PeerJ publication are live!

ChiroVox, the home of bat recordings from all over the world!

Tigga, along with Former lab members Joe Chun-Chia Huang and Juliana Senawi, recently co-authored “ChiroVox: a public library of bat calls” in PeerJ. The paper was timed to coincide with the launch of online bat call library. The library contains calls from across three cotenants and welcomes quality call contributions to help grow this valuable community resource.

Congratulations Dr. Tanshi!

Iroro in action!

A huge congratulations to Iroro on successfully defending her PhD dissertation last Wednesday! Her dissertation title is “Drivers of Diversity Patterns and Ensemble Structure of Forest Understory Insectivorous Bats Along Elevation Gradients in an Afrotropical Biodiversity Hotspot”. Thank you to everyone who has helped Iroro!

Two New Publications!

Over the last couple of months, Tigga has published a couple of new papers:

The first paper is “Human dimensions of bat conservation – 10 recommendations to improve and diversify studies of human-bat interactions”. The authors assess bat-related HD research papers and provide recommendations for how to better ground our research and directions for expansion.

Ten recommendations for to improve and diversify studies of human-bat interactions

Straka, T. M., Coleman, J., Macdonald, E. A., & Kingston, T. (2021). Human dimensions of bat conservation – 10 recommendations to improve and diversify studies of human-bat interactions. Biological Conservation, 262, 109304.

The second paper is “Setting the Terms for Zoonotic Diseases: Effective Communication for Research, Conservation, and Public Policy”. The authors categorized the misuse of zoonotic terms and clarified the definitions of these terms. The paper also provided frameworks to how to correct these miscommunications.

Shapiro, J. T., Víquez-R, L., Leopardi, S., Vicente-Santos, A., Mendenhall, I. H., Frick, W. F., Kading, R. C., et al. (2021). Setting the Terms for Zoonotic Diseases: Effective Communication for Research, Conservation, and Public Policy. Viruses13(7), 1356. MDPI AG. Retrieved from

Tigga Receives the President’s Excellence in Diversity and Equity Award!

A huge congratulations to Tigga for receiving the 2021 President’s Excellence in Diversity and Equity Award, this award was received due, “to advancing diversity and promoting equity and inclusive excellence at Texas Tech”. There are four recipients of the award out of the pool of all Texas Tech staff, faculty, and students.

View the details of the President’s Excellence in Diversity and Equity Award here.

Congratulations to Touseef—One Health poster wins award at the World Microbe Forum

We are excited to share that Touseef’s poster entitled “Regional and Intersectional Gaps in One Health Research: Future Directions” has won an Outstanding Student Poster Award at the World Microbe Forum, the world’s leading platform for microbiologists. This award is presented jointly by American Society for Microbiologist (ASM) and Federation of European Microbiologist Societies (FEMS). One of only fourteen winners (out of over three thousand submissions), Touseef will present the poster this week in a special session for award winners.