A tiny bat living in central Italy has emerged from the dark and started hunting by day.
This switch in hunting strategy is highly unusual among insectivorous bats, which routinely hunt at twilight or by night to avoid predators.
Yet a small group of soprano pipistrelles has been spotted brazenly flying by day in a mountain canyon within an Italian beech forest.
Only one other species of insectivorous bat frequently flies during daylight.
A research team lead by Dr Danilo Russo, a bat expert from the University of Bristol, UK and the University of Naples Federico II in Italy report the discovery in the journal Mammalian Biology.
Together with colleagues from both institutions, Dr Russo initially set out to find the roosts of another species, the barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus), in the beech forests within a mountain canyon near the village of Villavallelonga in the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park in central Italy.
“One late afternoon, walking in the woodland, we spotted some bats flying unusually early,” Dr Russo explains.
“We thought the phenomenon might be occasional, as sometimes happens, so we came back at the same time on the following days and the bats were there.”
The scientists established that the bats are soprano pipistrelles (Pipistrellus pygmaeus), a species with a high-pitched call that is closely related to the common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus).
The bats routinely come out to forage well before sunset, commonly feeding on gnats, wasps and bugs.