At BiMa-Lab, Bird and Mammal Evolution, Systematics and Ecology Lab, we study several aspects of vertebrate evolution, systematics, ecology and conservation. Currently, our projects focus on factors affecting patterns of diversity in ecosystems, assemblages, populations and species traits, and the scales of approach go from local to global. Most of our work is applied to ecosystem and animal conservation and management, always keeping in mind the human dimensions of wildlife, under a logic of sustainability. We are based at the Department of Zoology of the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.

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Check out some of our most recent works!

Acoustic clue: bringing echolocation call data into the distribution dilemma of Pteronotus (Chiroptera: Mormoopidae) complexes in Central America

In Central America, the distributional limits, and the contact zones of some species of the genus Pteronotus naked-backed bat lesser mustached bat are unclear. We looked for acoustic clues to solve this dilemma…  So, we analysed the acoustic variation of their echolocation calls along the range of possible contact zones and the existence of distinct phonic groups using HCPC analysis. We found evidence of sympatry for three phonic groups within each species complex, without a clear correspondence to the known distribution of species. The changes in frequency of their echolocation calls seem to follow a similar pattern to the geographical variation in body size of the species. Future studies in Central America should include an integrative sampling of individually captured,tagged and recorded bats to help in resolution of the distribution dilemma raised here. Check the full paper here!


Aerial insectivorous bats in the Brazilian Pantanal: diversity and activity patterns in response to habitat and microclimate

In tropical environments, landscape heterogeneity is a key factor determining species richness gradients, while climatic conditions are commonly related to the occurrence and activity patterns of most animal species. We used acoustic monitoring data to test the inuence of microclimate variables and habitat on the activity pattern of aerial insectivorous bats in three distinct environments in northern Pantanal, Brazil – Cambarazal, Murundu eld and Riparian area. Results showed differences in composition between habitats, but richness estimates were similar despite habitat heterogeneity. Want to know more? Check the full paper here!


Living on the edge: density and activity patterns of the ocelot, Leopardus pardalis, in the austral limit of the Atlantic Forest

We used camera traps to assess the population density and activity patterns of the ocelot in six areas in southern Brazil. In the most pristine area, the Turvo State Park density values were similar to those from a study carried out 10 years ago, suggesting that this population remains stable. Our results indicate that austral populations of the ocelot are likely to be dependent on preserved patches of deciduous seasonal forests. As in other areas of the species’ distribution, ocelots were mainly nocturnal, potentially avoiding humans and domestic animals. The preservation of those areas and the connectivity between them is a priority for the long-term conservation of stable ocelot´s populations in the southern Atlantic Forest range. Read the full paper here.


How aerial insectivore bats of different sizes respond to nightly temperature shifts


Small, volant and nocturnal, bats face challenges to avoid heat loss! Temperature variations should lead to distinct behavioural responses by bats of different sizes… But bats don’t cease to surprise us… Bat activity, measured with ultrasound detectors, reduced significantly below 12 °C. Larger bats maintained their activity at temperatures where the activity of smaller bats had already halted, as expected. However, larger bats foraged mostly during the first half of the night, at higher temperatures than those chosen by smaller bats to forage. We associate these differential responses to the thermal convection process, which may increase prey availability at higher altitudes, where larger molossids are known to forage. Smaller species, mostly edge-space hunters, probably take advantage of less variable prey availability during the night, resulting in a more regular behavioural pattern of navigation and foraging. See the full paper here.



Take a good catch at the scat: carboxylic and sulfonic acid profiles as a non-invasive tool for species identification and sex determination in neotropical carnivores

There is an increasing interest in the use of noninvasive monitoring methods, such as the use of chemical profiles obtained from noninvasive samples.We proposed the use of carboxylic and sulfonic acids profiles obtained from scats as a noninvasive tool to identify mammalian carnivoran species and for sex determination. We used High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) coupled to a Laser-Induced Fluorescence (LIF) detection system (HPLC-LIF) to retrieve carboxylic and sulfonic acids profiles from scats of five mammalian carnivores: Puma concolor, Herpailurus yagouaroundi, Leopardus pardalis and Felis catus (all Felidae) and Nasua nasua (Procyonidae). We were able to unambiguously identify the species and determinate the sex for all fecal samples through the pattern of presence-absence of carboxylic and sulfonic acids (digital coding). The method allowed the discrimination of the evaluated species of the Carnivora, even between closely related and ecologically similar felids. Moreover, our method is low cost and can be executed in a short period of time. Check our full study here.

Evolutionary implications of dental anomalies in bats

Traditionally, dental anomalies have been thought to be relatively rare phenotypes resulting from poorly understood genetic, environmental, or developmental processes. However, dental anomalies may constitute a source of morphological variation upon which selection may operate. Using modern phylogenetic analyses on a dataset derived from 17,905 observations, we examined the patterns of dental anomalies in Chiroptera. Dental anomalies have a significant phylogenetic signal, suggesting they are not simply the result of idiosyncratic mutations or random developmental disorders! Our resultssuggest that dietary specialization has not affected the presence or absence of anomalies of any kind across bats, albeit dental anomalies do vary per tooth type in some groups. Read the full paper here.


Species–genetic diversity correlation in phyllostomid bats of the Bodoquena plateau, Brazil

Recent theories suggest that processes shaping species diversity are the same shaping genetic diversity, leading to a correlation between the two levels of diversity. Using Neotropical bat assemblages, and considering the genetic diversity of two co-distributed Chiroptera species with distinct life-history traits, We found that species-genetic diversity correlations may vary according to the species under study. Among our focal species, A. planirostris appears to be ecologically different to other species in assemblages, while C. perspicillata seems to be ecologically similar and a potential signalling species for the remaining of the bat assemblage, Read our work here.


Impact of anthropogenic factors on occupancy and abundance of carnivorans in the Austral Atlantic forest

Global wildlife populations face multiple threats, from an ever-growing human population. The Carnivora, especially species of large body size are at risk of local extinction from habitat loss, as they depend on large home-ranges and are highly susceptible to changes in prey populations. The objective of this study was to detect responses of carnivorans of different body sizes to anthropogenic disturbance. Data on detections and non-detections were used to model abundances based on group occupancy to understand how carnivorans of different body sizes respond to anthropogenic land-use variables. Apex and large predators were found to display lower human disturbance tolerance compared with medium and small-bodied. Mesocarnivores and small predators increased in abundance in areas with higher anthropogenic influence, where larger predators were absent. Our study suggests that smaller-sized carnivores may be experiencing population release at the landscape level aided by human activity, and that large carnivoran conservation appears to be dependent on high quality protected areas, with low anthropogenic disturbance levels. Check the full paper here.


Check out our papers in the recently launched journal of the Bioscience Institute, UFRGS, Bio Diverso

Passado, presente e futuro da conservação de carnívoros no extremo sul do Brasil

Bird blitz: rapid survey of birds from Perau de Janeiro, Arvorezinha, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

Bats and COVID-19: villains or victims?

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, bats are being pointed as responsible for its origin, even without solid scientific evidence. In this opinion piece, Maria João Ramos Pereira, Enrico Bernard and Ludmilla M.S. Aguiar discuss the most updated information on bats and COVID-19 and argue that bats should not be blamed for a disease they are not responsible for. Bats should be seen not as dangerous animals but, instead, as sources of several scientific insights useful for human health. Check the full paper in Biota Neotropica as well as the version of the Folha de São Paulo newspaper. 

Where are the bats? An environmental complementarity analysis in a megadiverse country

Field surveys are necessary to overcome Wallacean shortfalls. We used the concept of environmental complementarity to identify non-surveyed regions for bats that are different from others already surveyed in Brazil. Northern Cerrado and Western Caatinga are top priorities for bat surveys! Read the full paper here.





New research! Wind farm bat fatalities in southern Brazil: temporal patterns and influence of environmental factors

Impacts of wind farms on bats are scarcely known in Brazil. To fill this gap, Izidoro Amaral and collaborators analyzed spatiotemporal patterns in bat fatalities in a wind farm in southern Brazil, monitoring bat carcasses monthly in 129 wind towers between 2014 and 2018. 266 were found carcasses of six insectivorous bat species. Most of the fatalities were from Tadarida brasiliensis (Molossidae). The fatalities occurred exclusively between October and May (southern spring to southern autumn), mainly in towers close to the nearest urban center. Fatalities were positively correlated with wind speed. Eighty-three percent of bat activity occurred between 15 ° C and 23 ° C. To minimize the fatalities of synanthropic species, such as T. brasiliensis, the wind complexes must be located at least 4 km away from the urban centers, where these species are sheltered. In addition, between December and March, when most species in the subtropical and temperate region of South America reproduce, wind towers located near known shelters are expected to suspend activity on the hottest nights, when bats are most active. The full paper can be read here.

Turnover or intraspecific trait variation: explaining functional variability in a neotropical anuran metacommunity

New paper is out! Margay (Leopardus wiedii) in the southernmost Atlantic Forest: Density and activity patterns under different levels of anthropogenic disturbance

Populations of the small threatened neotropical felid, the margay Leopardus wiedii can persist in areas with moderate levels of human disturbance, as long as there are reasonably preserved forest matrices in these areas. This is one of the results found by our study published in PLoS One, whose objective was to increase knowledge about the ecology of the species in the southern limit of the Atlantic Forest, conducted in areas with different levels of human disturbance in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. The study was carried out by scientists from BiMaLab-PPGBAN-UFRGS, PUCRS, SEMA-RS Biodiversity Department and the Pró-Carnívoros Institute, covering important conservation areas in Rio Grande do Sul, such as the Turvo State Park, the Serra Geral National Park, the National Forest of Passo Fundo, the Pachecos Wildlife Refuge, the Pro-Mata Nature Research and Conservation Center and an area of ​​rural matrix in the municipality of Teutônia. The margay proved to be dependent on forest environments, which was already expected due to its arboreal habit and its density showed a positive relationship with vegetation cover. However, in the region of the study, the species seems to tolerate certain levels of anthropic changes in the landscape, occurring in more preserved forest environments, but also in rural matrices, as long as they have associated forest areas. The study is an important contribution to the development of comprehensive conservation strategies for this small neotropical felid still little known and threatened, particularly in the southern limit of the Atlantic Forest.

Otters and other mustelids are fascinating! Do you want to know more about these incredible carnivores? Follow Instagram @clubedalontra

Find out more about our new research and outreach project – Bats of the Pampa!

Take a look at our research project Aerial insectivorous bat assemblages of the Brazilian Cerrado, Pantanal and Pampa and the associated outreach project especially dedicated to the bats of the Pampa, the least known and protected of all Brazilian biomes. And take a look at the logo, isn’t beautiful?

Digital Fauna of Rio Grande do Sul is online!

The Neotropical region is the most biodiverse region on the planet. Because it is included within different biogeographic regions, and includes a biome that does not exist in other Brazilian states, Pampa, Rio Grande do Sul has  very high faunistic diversity of species, and quite different from the rest of the country. This project will seek to provide all interested citizens with information on the fauna of Rio Grande do Sul, highlighting species endemic to the state and taking advantage of the existence of a strong tradition of zoological research in UFRGS and other entities in Rio Grande do Sul. In this first phase we catalogued all mammals of Rio Grande do Sul. The next phase will include coastal and marine birds. Visit the site here.

Women in Brazilian Mammalogy

The special edition of the Bulletin of the Sociedade Brasileira de Mastozoologia – Women in Brazilian Mammalogy –, aimed to highlight high quality works and fundamental contributions carried out by women in all areas of Brazilian Mammalogy, as well as discussing the issue of gender equality in Science. This special edition was edited by ou lab’s coordinator, Maria João Ramos Pereira, in partnership with Daniela M. Rossoni (Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago), Bárbara M.A. Costa (Department of Biological Science, Florida State University) and  Rebeca M.F. Barreto (Grupo de Estudos em Analise de Modelagem, Ecologia, Etnobiologia e Ecofeminismos, Universidade Federal do Vale do São Francisco). The editorial may be found here.

The fabulous illustration is authored by Brenda Godoy Alexandre (PPGBM-UFRGS).

Are we underestimating the threat status of Brazilian bats?

In this essay, published in the Boletim da Sociedade Brasileira de Mastozoologia, special volume Women in Brazilian Mammalogy, Ludmilla Aguiar (PPGZoologia, Universidade de Brasília) and Maria João Ramos Pereira (PPGBAN-BiMaLab, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul) suggest that bats may be wrongly perceived as less threatened than the whole of the other mammals, by comparing bat conservation status with that of the remaining mammals in Brazil, South America and worldwide. Seeing that Brazil is megadiverse and suffering huge rates of deforestation, their results indicate an unbalanced assessment towards bats and, considering the lack of robust ecological data on many species, they suggest the use of alternative approaches for the redefinition of bat conservation status in Brazil.

A meta-analysis of the effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on genetic diversity in mammals

In this study published in Mammalian Biology by Ana Lino (CESAM, Universidade de Aveiro), Carlos Fonseca (CESAM, Universidade de Aveiro), Danny Rojas (Departamento de Ciencias Naturales y Matemáticas de la Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Cali, Colômbia), Erich Fischer (PPGECO, Universidade Federal do Mato Grosso do Sul) and Maria João Ramos Pereira (PPGBAN-BiMaLab, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul) we tested if genetic diversity of mammal populations that live in fragments is lower than those living in continuous habitats and we explores potential traits related to the observed patterns.

Distribution of mammal species studied for effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on population genetic diversity, which were included in the meta-analysis in Lino et al. 2019.

We found an overall decrease in allelic diversity, allelic richness, observed heterozygosity and expected heterozygosity in mammal species livining in scenarios of high habitat fragmentation. Larger species are those most negatively affected by fragmentation; terrestrial and arboreal mammals are more negatively affected than flying species; herbivores suffer consistent negative effect of fragmentation; and forest-dependent species are the most susceptible to the negative effects of fragmentation.

BiMa-Lab’s paper – Who’s calling? Acoustic identification of Brazilian bats – highlited at BBC Brazil.

Our paper received quite the attention from BBC Brasil. Check the whole article here!



Eating down the food chain: generalism is not an evolutionary dead end for herbivores

A new study published in Ecology Letters (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ele.12911/full) by Danny Rojas (Departamento de Ciencias Naturales y Matemáticas de la Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Cali, Colômbia) Maria João Ramos Pereira (PPGBAN-BiMaLab, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul), Carlos Fonseca (CESAM, Universidade de Aveiro) and Liliana Dávalos (Stony Brook University, EUA)
elucidates the relationship between diet and speciation.

Here we found that a highly varied herbivorous diet (including for example fruits, nectar and pollen) or a predominantly herbivorous diet that includes some animal resources increases the formation of new species. In contrast, when bats specialize in a single type of plant product, the rate of formation of new species tends to decline. Therefore, general herbivory or a moderately insectivorous omnivory favors the increase of species diversity in an evolutionary setting, possibly because this strategy is a form of insurance against the erratic and unpredictable patterns of flowering and fruiting of plants in the Neotropics. The study has already had repercussion in the international scientific media.