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J Mammal. 2017 May 29;98(3):744-751. doi: 10.1093/jmammal/gyx018. Epub 2017 Mar 21.

Bat wing biometrics: using collagen-elastin bundles in bat wings as a unique individual identifier.

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USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station, University of Missouri, 202 Anheuser-Busch Natural Resources Building, Columbia, MO 65211, USA (SKA).
College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Missouri, 4011 Discovery Drive S219, Columbia, MO 65211, USA (SEH).
School of Natural Resources, University of Missouri, 202 Anheuser-Busch Natural Resources Building, Columbia, MO 65211, USA (KMW).


The ability to recognize individuals within an animal population is fundamental to conservation and management. Identification of individual bats has relied on artificial marking techniques that may negatively affect the survival and alter the behavior of individuals. Biometric systems use biological characteristics to identify individuals. The field of animal biometrics has expanded to include recognition of individuals based upon various morphologies and phenotypic variations including pelage patterns, tail flukes, and whisker arrangement. Biometric systems use 4 biologic measurement criteria: universality, distinctiveness, permanence, and collectability. Additionally, the system should not violate assumptions of capture-recapture methods that include no increased mortality or alterations of behavior. We evaluated whether individual bats could be uniquely identified based upon the collagen-elastin bundles that are visible with gross examination of their wings. We examined little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus), northern long-eared bats (M. septentrionalis), big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus), and tricolored bats (Perimyotis subflavus) to determine whether the "wing prints" from the bundle network would satisfy the biologic measurement criteria. We evaluated 1,212 photographs from 230 individual bats comparing week 0 photos with those taken at weeks 3 or 6 and were able to confirm identity of individuals over time. Two blinded evaluators were able to successfully match 170 individuals in hand to photographs taken at weeks 0, 3, and 6. This study suggests that bats can be successfully re-identified using photographs taken at previous times. We suggest further evaluation of this methodology for use in a standardized system that can be shared among bat conservationists.


E. fuscus; M. lucifugus; M. septentrionalis; P. subflavus; animal identification; bats; biometrics

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