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Maltese bats studied with new scientific techniques

Research will help with conservation efforts

Malta's bat species are being monitored by a team of researchers at the University of Malta with the help of some innovative new methods.

The research from the University’s Conservation Biology Research Group has shed new light on the species of bats inhabiting the islands of Malta, their behaviour, and also set the ball rolling on new monitoring and conservation methods.

In their latest peer-reviewed publication in the journal Bioacoustics, conservation biologists Clare Mifsud and Adriana Vella, describe the presence, distribution and echolocation characteristics of six resident and one migratory bat species found on Malta.

The University said the research had seen the development of a new artificial intelligence tool to detect and identify Maltese bat species.

Bats, the University said, use echolocation to navigate and to find insect prey during the night. Different bat species also tend to have different echolocation signatures allowing researchers to discriminate between the different species.

The local research used what are known as artificial neural networks to allow automatic identification of bat species from their echolocation calls.

“The use of artificial neural networks allowed species identification to be objective, accurate and efficient”, a statement by the University read.

Read: Discovering the nightlife of Malta's bats

The University said the researchers had paved the way for improved future monitoring of Maltese bat species using non-invasive techniques.

The University said that ongoing research was looking into other important aspects linked to bat monitoring and foraging behaviour, and employed a number of hi-tech methods.

“Conservation biology may increasingly rely on innovative methods to accurately understand species needs and conditions so as to allow for best management of biodiversity and habitats,” the University said.

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