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Thumb-size bat makes record-breaking flight, gets killed by a house cat

A Nathusius' pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus nathusii) in mid flight. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

A thumb-size bat that was killed by a house cat in Russia flew a record-breaking 1,254 miles (2,018 kilometers) from the U.K. before meeting its untimely end.

The female Nathusius' pipistrelle (Pipistrellus nathusii), which weighed just under 0.3 ounces (8 grams), was found injured in the village of Molgino in western Russia. It was taken to a local bat sanctuary but later died from its injuries, which were most likely inflicted by a cat, according to a statement by the Bat Conservation Trust in the U.K. (BCT). 

The ring on the bat's arm, which belonged to London Zoo, showed that it had previously been caught near Heathrow Airport in London by a volunteer bat recorder in 2016, according to the statement. Since then it has flown farther than any other bat from the U.K.

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A pair of fully-grown Nathusius' pipistrelles in the hands of researchers. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

"This is a remarkable journey and the longest one we know of any bat from Britain across Europe," Lisa Worledge, head of conservation services at BCT, said in the statement. 

The migration is also the second-longest ever recorded for a bat. The record-holder is another Nathusius' pipistrelle that journeyed 1,381 miles (2,223 km) from Latvia to Spain in 2019, according to The Guardian.

"The movements of Nathusius' pipistrelles around the UK and between the UK and the continent remain largely mysterious," Worledge said in the statement. "This journey is an exciting scientific finding and another piece in the puzzle of bat migration."

Nathusius' pipistrelle reports are rare in the U.K., mainly due to historically poor recording by conservation groups. However, the National Nathusius' Pipistrelle Project, which was started in 2014 by BCT, has now recorded more than 2,600 Nathusius' pipistrelle bats in the U.K., including the individual recently killed in Russia. 

Conservationists with the pipistrelle project hope they can continue to shed light on these bats' population levels, migration routes and breeding success, as the species is suspected to be vulnerable to climate change, as well as onshore and offshore wind turbines, according to BCT. 

Originally published on Live Science.

Harry Baker

Harry is a U.K.-based staff writer at Live Science. He studied Marine Biology at the University of Exeter (Penryn campus) and after graduating started his own blog site "Marine Madness," which he continues to run with other ocean enthusiasts. He is also interested in evolution, climate change, robots, space exploration, environmental conservation and anything that's been fossilized. When not at work he can be found watching sci-fi films, playing old Pokemon games or running (probably slower than he'd like).