The Woodchester Bat Project

What is the Woodchester Bat Project?

There is considerable value in long-term studies of wild animal populations. Ecological processes are complex, convoluted, and long-term in nature. It is only when we collect data over extended periods, across many individuals, that such events can become clear. These data sets are rare but vital for providing information on how wild populations respond to global environmental change.

The population of greater horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) in Mid-Gloucestershire, UK, is among an exclusive group of intensively-studied species where these robust long-term data are available. Woodchester Mansion, a Grade I listed Victorian house, in the heart of the Cotswolds, is home to the main maternity colony during the summer months. Population numbers in 2011 reached 181 adults, with 91 babies. The mansion's bats have been studied by Dr Roger Ransome since 1959, making it one of the longest continuous studies of a mammal in the world. 

From 1993, advances in molecular methods allowed for changes in population structure to be studied at the genetic level. Consequently, we have shown that female pairs within a matriline frequently choose to mate with the same male over consecutive years - known as 'intra-lineage polygyny' (Rossiter et al., 2005). Other significant findings include evidence of high heritability in body size (Ward, 2013), and that larger males receive a higher share of matings with females (Ward et al., 2014). . 

Dr Ransome's studies continue to provide unparalleled information towards the conservation of this fascinating species. Ongoing projects now focus on understanding the species' exceptional longevity, and sociobiology.



Dr Roger Ransome

Professor Gareth Jones

Professor Stephen Rossiter

Professor Emma Teeling

Professor Darren Croft

Megan Power

Luke Romaine

Have a look at Dr Ransome's studies in action, in this episode of BBC's Countryfile Extra.