The lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros) is one of the smallest British bats (2). It has soft fluffy fur, which is brownish on the back and grey-white on the underside (4). At rest, this delicate bat wraps its wings around its body as it hangs upside down (2). Juveniles are dark grey in colour (4). The generic name Rhinolophus derives from the Greek for 'nose crest', and the specific name hipposideros derives from the Greek for 'horse-iron' or horseshoe (5). This name refers to the complex nose-leaf, which is thought to act as an 'acoustic lens', focusing echolocation pulses that are emitted from the nose (6).
When hunting, the lesser horseshoe bat flies close to the ground, usually below five metres around bushes and shrubs (4) with fast, agile flight (4). They glean their prey from stones and branches; favourite prey items include flies, moths and spiders (2). The ultrasound calls tend to be around 110 kHz. This species mates in the autumn, and females give birth to one young between mid-June and the beginning of July (4) in mixed-sex maternity colonies (2). The young become independent at six to seven weeks of age (4). Hibernation occurs between September and May (4).
Occurs throughout central and southern Europe but has declined in the north. In Britain the lesser horseshoe bat has become extinct in the Midlands and in the south-east (4) and is now restricted to south-west England and Wales (3). It also occurs throughout regions of north Africa (1).
Once found roosting only in caves, maternity roosts now occur in old buildings, often in warm attics. Hibernation still tends to take place underground (3) in caves, mines and cellars (4). The lesser horseshoe bat feeds in sheltered valleys (2), and foothills (4) amongst mixed woodland, and along hedgerows and tree lines (3).
The lesser horseshoe bat is classified as Lesser Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1). European populations are listed under Appendix II of The Bonn Convention (2), Appendix II of the Bern Convention, and Annexes II and IV of the EC Habitats and Species Directive. In the UK it is protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and Schedule 2 of the Conservation Regulations 1994 (3).
The decline of the lesser horseshoe bat is due to a number of factors including the disturbance or destruction of roosts, changes in agricultural practices such as the increased use of insecticides, which reduces prey availability (4), and loss of suitable foraging habitat (3).
Twelve sites are designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) for the lesser horseshoe bat, four of which are candidate SACs (Special Areas of Conservation), 70 further sites supporting this species occur within existing SSSIs (3). This species is part of the National Bat Monitoring Programme, which aims to establish a long-term monitoring programme and is a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. The Species Action Plan aims to encourage the long-term expansion of the current range through natural recolonisation (3).
The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.
Detecting objects by reflected sound. Used for orientation and detecting and locating prey by bats and cetacea (whales and dolphins).
A winter survival strategy characteristic of some mammals in which an animal's metabolic rate slows down and a state of deep sleep is attained. Whilst hibernating, animals survive on stored reserves of fat that they have accumulated in summer. In insects, the correct term for hibernation is 'diapause', a temporary pause in development and growth. Any stage of the lifecycle (eggs, larvae, pupae or adults) may enter diapause, which is typically associated with winter.
A soft cartilaginous projection extending in front of the external opening of the ear. In bats it is thought to aid in the location of prey by generating many echoes, but the precise way in which this works is unknown.
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