Diversity and population structure of ectoparasites infecting bats – Atlantic Canada

bat bug

Ectoparasites, such as fleas, mites, and ticks, are an understudied group of organisms that live on and feed off of their hosts. Ectoparasites that complete their full lifecycles on their hosts can provide insight into host dispersal and movement ecology, particularly for animals that are difficult to track, such as bats.

This research will investigate the taxonomy, diversity, and population structure of ectoparasites infecting bat species in Atlantic Canada. Ectoparasites were previously collected from multiple bat species from locations throughout Atlantic Canada. The ectoparasites will be identified morphologically and with DNA barcoding to determine their species and patterns of population structure. The dispersal ability of the ectoparasites and, by extension, their bat hosts, can be inferred from the genetic population structure giving us insight into how bat colonies interact throughout Atlantic Canada.

Pictured: Side view of a female Myodopsylla insignis flea sampled from a juvenile male little brown myotis caught in Pinery Provincial Park in 2019

Colony structure and social patterns in little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) - Ontario

Group behaviour in animals is often complex and difficult to study but can provide insight into the evolution of social behaviour. Patterns in group composition and associations between individuals can inform the potential drivers of group formation, and whether a group of animals displays truly social behaviour.

This research will investigate the group structure of little brown bats and aim to provide a more detailed definition of a bat colony. In Pinery Provincial Park, Ontario, we are using radio-frequency identification tags and passive readers to model the social network of roosting individuals and intend to expand this study to also examine forage group patterns. We will also compare this to long-term data from Salmonier Nature Park, Newfoundland to understand the longevity of these associations, and therefore the stability of bat colonies. This project will further our understanding of the social nature of this gregarious species and will allow us to begin to infer the drivers of bat group behaviour.

Research Partners


Pinery Provincial Park 2019:
Julia Sunga (UW) and Caleb Ryan (UW) set up a harp trap at the base of a rocket box. 

Distribution and roosting behaviour of little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) - P.E.I. 

Understanding the distribution and critical habitat of an endangered species enables conservation authorities to effectively support the species’ persistence. Given the devastating impact of white nose syndrome (WNS) on bat populations across Eastern Canada, it is important to investigate the behavioural ecology and location of surviving populations.

This research focuses on the bats foraging within Prince Edward Island National Park (PEINP). We are trapping bats at foraging sites across PEINP and tracking a subset of these with radio tags to their diurnal roosts. This method enables us to quantify the characteristics of roosts near the park and identify the approximate number of bats using these them. We, in collaboration with Parks Canada (PEINP) and the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative, hope to develop a better understanding of the bats in PEINP and further clarify the status of post-WNS bats in Atlantic Canada.

Research Partners

Changes in bat activity after the invasion of a fungus causing white nose syndrome - Nova Scotia

Monitoring population changes plays a large role in conservation research and management. Long-term monitoring is essential to understand changes in populations particularly for species that experience a crash. Over 6 million bats in North America have died as a result of a fungus that causes white nose syndrome (WNS). The impact of this fungus has largely been documented at overwintering sites compared to summer roosts.

Bioacoustic monitoring has become increasingly popular as a non-invasive method to study wildlife ecology and is used by biologists to determine presence, distribution and activity levels. Acoustic monitoring is well-suited for bats given their cryptic behaviour. This research is using acoustic monitors to compare changes in summer bat activity since the arrival of WNS. In partnership with the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute and Parks Canada (Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site), we are comparing acoustic data collected pre- to post-arrival of WNS to answer if changes in summer activity reflect documented winter declines.

Research Partners

team nova scotia

Team Nova Scotia 2019:
Left to right: Alexander Broders, Dr. Hugh Broders (UW), Abby Lewis (MTRI), Noah Hardy (MTRI/NSCC), Adam Grottoli (UW), Lori Phinney (MTRI/UW), Matt Smith (Parks Canada), and Brad Toms (MTRI)