A Bat Man in the Tropics
Chasing El Duende
Publication Year: 2003
Fleming weaves autobiographical reflections together with information on the natural history and ecology of bats and describes many other animals and plants he has encountered. His book details the stresses and rewards of life in scientific field camps, gives portraits of prominent biologists such as Dan Janzen and Peter Raven, and traces the development of modern tropical biology. A witness to the destruction and development of many of the forests he has visited throughout his career, Fleming makes a passionate plea for the conservation of these wild places.
Published by: University of California Press
Title Page, Copyright
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A Bat Man in the Tropics: Chasing El Duende is the seventh volume in theUniversity of California Press’s series on organisms and environments. Ourmain themes are the diversity of plants and animals, the ways in which theyinteract with one another and with their surroundings, and the broader im-plications of those relationships for science and society. We seek books that...
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My Spanish-English dictionary defines the word duende as “hobgoblin” or“ghost.” Duende can also be defined as “will o’ the wisp”—anything thatdeludes or misleads by luring on. In this book, I use the word duende inboth senses. The first sense (hobgoblin or ghost) is meant to refer to bats,the principal subject of this book.To most people, bats are mysterious, ghost-...
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I owe a large debt of gratitude to many people who directly or indirectlyhelped me write this book. They include my mentors Clara Dixon, EmmettHooper, and Charles Handley; my collaborators Don Wilson, Ray Heithaus,Don Thomas, Frank Bonaccorso, Merlin Tuttle, Hugh Spencer, Leo Stern-berg, Jim Hamrick, John Nason, Sandrine Maurice, and Jerry Wilkinson; my...
1 Up a Quebrada without a Paddle
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On a beautifully clear morning in late January 1966 I found myself seatedbehind the pilot in a small twin-engine plane that had just taken off froma small airfield outside Panama City, Panama. In the plane with me was FrankGreenwell, who worked for the Smithsonian Institution’s Division of Mam-mals, and eight hundred pounds of field gear and a mountain of food. Our...
2 Year of the Marmosa
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In his first letter to me, Charles Handley had indicated that little was knownabout “seasonal variation in the biology of [neo]tropical mammals.” In away, this was paradoxical. Here was the richest mammal fauna in the worldcontaining a myriad of different lifestyles, but it had barely been studied byecologists and natural historians.Whereas the natural history and rudiments...
3 Along the Río Corobici
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I’m sure that my wife Marcia’s women friends consider her to be a saint.Who else but a saint would put up with a field biologist who annually dis-appears for months at a time and who from time to time asks his entire fam-ily to pull up stakes and move to a new location for a year? To be fair, Mar-cia didn’t necessarily know that this was going to be our lifestyle when we...
4 El Duende
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I was recently flipping through the pages of a new general ecology textbookwhen a familiar picture caught my eye. In the section on animal foragingbehavior was a photo of a short-tailed fruit bat, wings held aloft and a corn-cob-shaped Piper fruit in its mouth. The text accompanying the picture in-dicated that this bat is an optimal forager; that is, it maximizes its net rate...
5 Three Hundred Nights of Solitude
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Insectivory has always been the most common feeding mode in bats. Fullysixteen of the eighteen families and about three-quarters of all species ofbats have evolved a diverse array of foraging styles for exploiting noctur-nal insects. Among the insect eaters that occur in a tropical forest, such asSanta Rosa, are species that pursue insects far above the forest canopy (free-...
6 Anastasio’s Last Stand
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My office walls in the Cox Science Building at the University of Miami aredecorated with a gorgeous red mola from Panama and a variety of framedphotographs and colorful posters, mostly depicting bats and habitats whereI have worked. In the midst of these is a rather small piece of scuffed leather,nicely matted and set in a dark wooden frame. This piece of leather is all...
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When he’s photographing bats, Merlin Tuttle leaves nothing to chance.Everything about his photographic setup—camera, lenses, flashes, infraredbeams, and background material—must be in perfect working order and per-fectly placed before he makes his first exposure. His excruciating attentionto detail certainly pays off. The portraits and action shots of bats that he has...
8 Fooling Around with Flying Foxes
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For my forty-sixth birthday, Marcia gave me a didgeridoo (“sound stick”),a musical instrument made by north Australian Aborigines from a treebranch that has been hollowed out by termites. One to two meters in length,this instrument is played much like a large brass instrument. By blowingair into one opening while vibrating their lips, musicians produce a low-...
9 Tracy’s Hypothesis
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In August 1988, shortly after we returned from Australia, Merlin Tuttlecalled to welcome me back to the States. After a few minutes of news andgossip, Merlin got to the real purpose of his call. He asked, “How would youlike to take a break from your tropical studies and work with me on the lesserlong-nosed bat, Leptonycteris curasoae, as it pollinates flowers of colum-...
10 Along the Nectar Trail
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Marcia came to visit me in the middle of our first field season at Kino Bay.Like me, she had never been to the Sonoran Desert before and wanted tosee the new plants and bats I was studying. She froze with me in the desertat night while we slept between rounds of nectar sucking. One sunny morn-ing we climbed past the Sierra Kino cave to the top of this 450-meter-tall...
11 In the Blink of an Eye
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Over the years, I’ve spent a fair amount of time staring at the phosphores-cent green screen of night vision scopes, waiting to see bats interact withplants. These devices, originally called snooper scopes when they were firstused in the Vietnam War, amplify ambient light thousands of times to forma bright image under low-light conditions. With a little supplementary...
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Late January 1996 marked the thirtieth anniversary of my work with trop-ical bats. I celebrated this milestone in a cattle pasture near the village ofMontepío, located about two hundred kilometers southeast of Veracruz, onMexico’s Gulf coast. Receiving nearly six meters of rain a year, Montepíolies in a region of hills, valleys, ancient volcanoes, and crater lakes, a region...
appendix 1A Brief Overview of Bat Diversity
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Bats belong to order Chiroptera (“hand wing”), which is the second largestorder of mammals (after rodents). Over nine hundred species are currentlyrecognized, and these are classified in two suborders: Megachiroptera, themegabats (flying foxes and their allies); and Microchiroptera, the microbats(echolocating bats). Suborder Megachiroptera contains only one family; sub-...
appendix 2Some Common and Scientific NamesUsed in the Text
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Sources of names include: Dobat 1985; Figgis 1985; Fujita and Tuttle 1991; McMahon 1985;Reid 1997; Roberts 1989; Scott, Savage, and Robinson 1983; Stebbins 1985; and Strahan 1983....
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Page Count: 333
Publication Year: 2003
Series Title: Organisms and Environments