Do emerging pipistrelle bats lose control of their timing due to ‘crowd pressure’?



When bats emerge from colonies to feed and drink their emergence patterns deviate systematically from those expected at random (Kunz, 1974; Swift, 1980; Bullock et al., 1987; Brigham & Fenton, 1986). In particular, many bats appear to group together as they emerge, and form into ‘clusters’ or ‘outbursts’ (but see McAney & Fairley, 1988; Kunz & Anthony, 1995 for exceptions). The function of this clustering behaviour has been the topic of recent debate, with some authors favouring the hypothesis that the behaviour is an artefact of large numbers of animals moving through a restricted space (Kalcounis & Brigham, 1994) and others suggesting the behaviour has a more significant biological function such as protection from predation (Leen & Novick, 1977; Speakman, Stone & Kerslake, 1995) or information transfer (Wilkinson, 1992).