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Indiana bats are widely distributed over the eastern United States. They are found in western and northern Ohio, but are absent from counties in the southeastern hill country . Population declines have been caused by loss of summer habitat and disturbance at hibernation sites. In western Ohio, wooded areas along waterways probably represent the best summer habitat.
The fur of the Indiana bat is a dull grayish brown on the upper part of the body, and only slightly paler below. The texture of the fur is fine and fluffy, and each dorsal hair is tricolored: blackish at the base, grayish in the middle, and chestnut brown at the tip.
The ears, wing and tail membranes are brownish black. When viewed from below, hibernating individuals display pinkish faces. An average sized adult is 82 mm (3.2 in) in length, weighs approximately 6.5 g (0.2 oz), and has a wingspread of 25.5 cm (10 in).
Indiana bats hibernate in caves in extraordinarily dense clusters. Thousands hang by their toes from the ceiling, so tightly packed that 300-450 squeeze into one square foot of space. From below, only their ears, noses, mouths, and wrists can be seen. When they arrive at the caves in the fall, they spend two or three weeks swarming in and out of the cave entrances all night long, presumably finding mates and foraging to accumulate enough fat to see them through hibernation.
Indiana bats and little brown bats look almost identical, and the most reliable way to distinguish them is to examine their toes. Indiana bats have only 1-3 hairs per toe, and they extend only to the base of the toenail. Little brown bats have 5-7 hairs that extend to the end of the toenail or beyond.
Indiana bat suggest it forages at night in the canopy of forests, taking many kinds of insects such as moths, leafhoppers, and beetles. The availability of certain orders of insects in different forest communities, e.g., lowland versus ridge top, determine feeding preferences of local populations.
Life Cycle : Indiana bats are polygamous. This means that males mate with a large number of females and have no role in the rearing of young. Breeding takes place during the late summer and early fall during a behavioral phenomenon known as â€śswarming.â€ť At this time, large numbers of bats visit and congregate in a succession of caves just prior to hibernation. Although sperm is transferred to the female during copulation that occurs in the fall, ovulation and fertilization of the egg are delayed until the females arouse from hibernation the following spring.
During the summer, females form maternity colonies, almost always under the loose bark of trees or in tree cavities. Maternity colonies usually consist of fewer than 100 females, and can occur in both upland and streamside areas containing trees greater than eight inches in diameter.
A single young is born in early summer, and is fed milk from the female. The females actually hang â€śright side upâ€ť during the birthing process. The young can fly after about three weeks, and begin to leave the roost around four weeks of age.
Decreases in Indiana bat populations have been caused by several factors. Unfortunately, most are the result of human activity. Indiana bats suffered losses in the past because humans altered cave entrances. Structures built to restrict human access to caves have also hindered the movement of bats. These structures also cause changes in air flow, temperatures, and humidity levels and make caves less suitable for bats. Human disturbance is always a factor with hibernating bats, and because Indiana bats gather together in large numbers during the winter, they are even more vulnerable to disturbance.
Environmental impact : Carter points out that like many other species of bats, the Indiana bat is declining due to various factors, including loss of habitat. In 2007 there were an estimated 450,000 animals, down from 883,000 in 1965.Indiana bats feed entirely on night flying insects and are an integral part of the natural ecosystem, he said.
We know that they are important insect predators and, along with other bats, help keep many insect populations in check, including many agricultural pests. We canâ€™t anticipate the ramifications to the ecosystem of losing the Indiana bat. For that reason as well as simple ethical reasons â€” like the fact that we caused the decline of this species.
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