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My pipistrelle bat skeleton and my first licence


This is a story about my first bone licence. For collecting most bones you don't need a licence at all, and  if you find something you can usually keep it without asking as long as they weren't killed illegally. Some types are animals you do need a licence for because they are protected in some way.

The types of animals that you need licenses for are different from what you might think, and the law is complicated. I did a lot of research this year so I knew for sure that I didn't need a licence for my golden eagle skull, but I did have to check with Scottish Natural Heritage and DEFRA, and I have to keep information about where it came from and how it died. When I was talking to Scottish Natural Heritage about the golden eagle, they told me I did need a licence for another skeleton. It was one I wasn't expecting. It was my pipistrelle bat skeleton !

One of my pussy cats brought in the bat last year, and it was intact:

Bats aren't rare but they are protected. They are on a list of European Protected Species and if the skull dates from after 1994 you need a licence. The European Protected Species are

  • any type of bat, 
  • any whale or dolphin, 
  • great crested newt, 
  • natterjack toad, 
  • otter, 
  • wildcats,
  • and turtles.
To keep anything from one of these animals you need to have a licence. In Scotland you need to get a licence from Scottish Natural Heritage. The licence is very strict. To get one you need to prove that you need to keep the specimen and that you are a responsible scientist. I had to fill in a form and post it off. This is the form I had to fill out. I said I was keeping the skeleton for science, research and education reasons. About a week later I got a letter back with the licence !

The licence lasts for five years. I have to write down all the research I do on the skeleton and send it back after five years. Only I am allowed to do things on the skeleton, not anyone else, not even Dad. The skeleton has to be marked with the licence number (which is difficult !), it's can't be sold or given away, and I can't do anything other than scientific work on it.

So this is what the skeleton looks like next to a pound coin.

Bats are mammals, not birds, so the bones they have are the same type of bones as deer and sheep and humans. This is the right leg. It was skeletonised by the dermestid beetles at the beetle tank in CAHID, and the beetles have left enough flesh for the bones to still be connected to each other. This is the femur, tibia and foot.

You can see the claws at the end of the phalanges:

This is the left arm (wing bone) of the bat with the scapula (shoulder blade) still attached. It is so thin it is see through. The shoulder blade connects to the humerus (upper arm) but there is only one lower arm bone, not two like in humans. I think the one that is there is the ulna. The equivalent of the metacarpal (wrist to knuckle bone) is the same length again, then there are long 'finger' bones.

This is the elbow joint:

The shoulder blade has a curved bit over the top of the joint, like hedgehogs, but different to deer.

The spine had broken in the lower back. This is the lower spine, tail and pelvis:

This is a close up of the pelvis:

This is the ribcage seen from the back, with the right shoulder blade still attached:

The skull was absolutely tiny. This is it on a pound coin (which is 23mm across).

You can see the big canines which are an unusual shape.  You can see the hook on the back of the jaw where muscules would be attached.

As you can see, the eye sockets are small and low down. Bats do have eyes but they are not very good. They find there was about by echolocation, which is making sounds then listening for the echo, like submarines.

It is very difficult to work with a skeleton like this because it is so small and delicate. The way I do it is let Dad take pictures then to look at the pictures because I don't have a microscope or anything like that and magnifying glasses aren't strong enough.

Having the licence makes me feel like a proper bone collector !

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Bethanol.Cottrell said...

Wow! Everything is so small and delicate. This is one of my favourite posts! And you definitely shouldn't need a licence to make you feel like a proper bone collector, you are definitely one of those, an awesome one. I find it so inspiring that someone your age knows so much and is so interested in natural history. Keep up the good work.

Psydrache said...

Wow, that little tiny-winy bat skull is amazing! Long time ago I found a bat skull as well, but I broke it in my fingers when I wanted to pick it up :(
You are really accurate whit all your finds and thats impressive! Keep this up!
By the way, I never got my doe skull. I hope the customs din't keep it...

Jake said...

@Bethanol: thanks !
@Psydrache: sorry it has taken me so long, I will post it on Monday !

michael fox said...

Hi jake, yet another great post, the law is and always will be a complicated thing but you seem to have a good grasp on it all :) keep up the hunt. mike

Jack N said...

Awesome,that is the strangest skeleton I ever saw.Today I went to an old farm and was shown where the old farmer chucked sheep corpses.The floor was plastered with bones,and I was in heaven.I picked up as many as I could.Now I have lots of bones cleaning up.(-:

Izzy said...

Yes I went with Jack to the farm and I got my first skull- a sheep skull!!! Jack really wanted it... but I refused to swap. Jake, have you checked your emails recently as I sent one a few weeks ago and you haven't answered.

Jake said...

@Michael: thanks !
@Jack: cool find !
@Izzy: will check now !

Jake said...

Izzy - couldn't find your email, could you resend ?

Izzy said...

Ok Jake I'll do it as soon as I can but it might have to be tomorrow.

Roiffalo said...

Very cool. Your bat looks a lot like the ones around here, but I think ours are little brown bats. I have a partial bat skull found in an owl pellet and am working on getting another.

That aside, just found your blog, and I LOVE it. Just learned some new methods and confirmations from your cleaning guide, so thanks for that! 8)

Jake said...

Cool ! Glad you like it !

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