Who is this Bechstein anyway?

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday, 12 June 2015 18:20

This week I finally caught up with one of the rare mammals that is so significant on some of our West Weald woodland sites, the Bechstein's Bat. This rare woodland bat is heavily protected and was captured as part of a survey by fully licensed bat specialists. It's a fairly big bat with large ears, noticeably bigger than Natterer's Bat which we also saw.

But who was Bechstein? A quick Google and I found this page. It seems Johann Matthäus Bechstein was one of the first naturalists concerned with conservation and the bat was named in his honour. It was described by Heinrich Kuhl, who it seems was a younger contemporary of Bechstein's who died at the age of 24 in 1821, only a year before the much older Bechstein passed away. What I find remarkable is that the naturalists at this time (nearly 200 years ago) were able to catch and describe this and other species like it, with very little of the equipment we have today. It must have been such an exciting time with so many species being undescribed then. I guess the only way we'll ever witness a period like that again is if we find another planet with life on and start describing that too...

13/06/2015 UPDATE: So I accidentlay wrote that Bechstein's Bat is my 49th beetle (this is clearly not true as I have seen many more than 49 beetles). This was brought to my attention by Dr Robert Hoare of New Zealand who left me this comment which I just had to include here...

I've recently determined that
the Bechstein's Bat is not a bat...
What observations sway me? Many:
the 'ears' are saucer-like antennae...
that fuzzy 'fur' (I'm sorry sweetie)
is clearly Coleoptera setae
(the kind that keeps a chafer safe
when other chafers start to chafe)...
those wings, apparently of hide?
Elytra (highly modified)!
It has six legs, but due to frost,
two pairs have recently been lost...
and what are these? Surprise, surprise:
they're single-facet compound eyes!
My stark deduction bears repeatal:
the Bechstein's Bat's a bloody beetle!

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