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The tree frog that eats bats

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Snake Inc. View Drop Down
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    Posted: 04 Oct 2007 at 4:43pm

The tree frog that eats bats

 

Crack of doom

 


The stench of ammonia rising off bat guano burns my nose, and the acrid vapours nearly choke me. A muffled roar rises from deep inside the abyss below me. Listening carefully, I can distinguish myriad clicks and squeaks amid the rush of beating wings. I peer down the beam of my headtorch into the 20m shaft and see blurred movement. In a moment, 110,000 little bent-wing bats Miniopterus australis will begin an evening's hunting. They will emerge en masse from Bat Cleft, where I sit, a small, 2.5m by 9m fissure in the limestone sidewall of Mount Etna, Queensland, Australia.

At 7pm sharp, the first bats spiral upwards and out of the cleft and disappear into the waning twilight. The furore has begun. Soon hundreds are fluttering around me, their wing tips touching my face and arms as they burst up from the chambers 22m below. Bat Cleft is so narrow that bats must fly zigzag from one end of the cleft to the other to get enough altitude on each pass before they reach the open sky. So many bats spiralling upwards create a continuous wind in my face and a low-pitched roar such as you hear in a conch shell

 

Mount Etna, Queensland, Australia.

 

 

Dining out


Slithering over the boulders close by is a small, dark snake about 80cm long - a spotted python Liasis maculosus. A big, green tree frog is already positioned on one of the boulders that the snake passes. The snake crawls over my boot and finally stops on a jagged rock that juts into the cleft. It anchors itself by gaining purchase on the pitted, rough limestone, and then stretches the upper half of its body into the air of the abyss. Bats make their turn at this point and bump into the rock, and the snake. The little python soon nabs a bat by biting from side to side when it feels touched. It pulls the bat into its constricting coils.

 

Constricting flight

 

While watching this drama, I forget to check the frog. I look down, aghast at the amazing spectacle below me. The posterior of a little bent-wing bat hangs out of the mouth of the frog. In the next two minutes, the frog makes three gulping movements, and its bat disappears.
The green tree frog Litoria cerulea is bright green with large toe pads and a thick, glandular, ridge over the eyes and ears. Older, well-fed ones look like stuffed bell-peppers.

I'm reeling from having seen an amphibian swallow a mammal in front of me. In about 1980, the discovery that the frog-eating bat Trachops cirrhosus eats tree frogs in Central America set herpetology abuzz with excitement. But these scenes at Bat Cleft of frogs dining out on bats is, to my knowledge, the only known example of such a reversal of roles.

 

Words and Images: D Bruce Means

 

 

 

"For in the end we will conserve only what we love
We will love only what we understand
And we will understand only what we have been taught"

http://www.reptilepets.co.za/
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lalchitri View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lalchitri Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Oct 2007 at 2:51am
interesting!
was this a BBC documentary?
if so, what was it called?


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Snake Inc. View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Snake Inc. Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Oct 2007 at 4:51am

Originally posted by lalchitri lalchitri wrote:

interesting!
was this a BBC documentary?
if so, what was it called?

Have no idea as I liberated the Document from some place else.

 

"For in the end we will conserve only what we love
We will love only what we understand
And we will understand only what we have been taught"

http://www.reptilepets.co.za/
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