Apodemus products just for bat research? Certainly not. Last year, our BatLure was used for research on Sunda colugos (also known as ‘flying lemurs’) on the Malaysian islands of Penang and Langkawi. On Sunday the 28th of February 2021, our equipment even got one of the lead roles in an episode of Chris Packham’s Animal Einsteins on BBC Two. French research leader Priscillia Miard talks about the research and shares her experiences with our equipment.

First briefly, what exactly are colugos? They are mammals from South-east Asia that need trees to glide. Thanks to the flying membrane between all parts of their body, they can glide for metres. In 2017, Miard started her Night Spotting Project on these special animals. “For my doctoral research, I had previously researched nocturnal mammals in Malaysia. Colugos soon became my fascination. Little is known about their behaviour, despite them being fairly easy to observe. Then I decided to start up my project.”

Provoking ultrasonic sound

Some time ago, Miard and her colleague, bat researcher Lim Lee Sim, discovered something special: the animals use ultrasound to communicate. Various (scientific) articles have been published about this. “I wanted to investigate this further. In 2020, the BBC approached me for Animal Einsteins. They wanted to know how the colugos communicate with each other and film the research together with me. A fantastic offer, of course! I needed the right equipment for this.”

BatLure to Malaysia

Miard is affiliated with the Wildlifetek knowledge institute. “It was through them that the BBC and I came into contact with Apodemus. They were happy to sponsor me and they thought about the necessary aids. We ended up with the BatLure: a device that normally plays bat sounds. We could use this to provoke the ultrasonic sounds of colugos. I also managed to borrow an external speaker and power adapter. Apodemus instantly shipped the equipment to Malaysia, which was nice because it meant I could get started right away.”

Chatterboxes

The research during the BBC recordings was a great success. “Colugos are very social animals. They appear to ‘chat’ a lot. Sometimes, you could hear five individuals talking in one sentence. And another thing that struck us was that they use similar sounds among themselves, but these sounds varied slightly in frequency.”

Colugos respond

Miard previously tried to provoke ultrasound from colugos, on the island of Penang. “When we arrived, the colugos were busy talking, but as soon as we started ‘provoking’ them, they fell completely silent. And the beautiful thing? During follow-up research on the island of Langkawi, the colugos were completely silent at the start. Then we switched on the BatLure, and the colugos responded. They began making a loud noise. We had never been able to provoke ‘answers’ before. Isn’t that great?”

Pettersson microphone: good recordings up to a height of 40 metres

Apodemus also lent Miard a Pettersson u256 ultrasound microphone to record the calls of the colugos and research them further. “Due to noise, I couldn’t use my previous microphone for any more than 20 metres. Colugos can often be found in trees of up to 40 metres. In fact, the Pettersson microphone was able to perfectly register all ultrasound activity at that height, without significant noise. In the end, I also added it to my own equipment collection.”

Permanent collaboration

Miard’s research will continue in the near future. Among other things, she will be tackling the question: what do all those different ultrasonic sounds from the colugos actually mean? “I am really curious about that, because a lot of it is still unclear. Hopefully, I can continue to work with Apodemus during my follow-up research.”

Check out Chris Packham’s Animal Einsteins

Curious about the episode of Miard and our equipment? You can find more info on the website of the BBC.