Merlin Tuttle

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Merlin Devere Tuttle, an American ecologist, was born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1941. He co-directed the Venezuelan Research Project of the Smithsonian Institution from 1965 to 1967, performed research on population ecology at the University of Minnesota in 1972, then became curator of mammals at the Milwaukee Public Museum from 1975 to 1986.

He made many contributions to studies of predator and prey interaction and foraging behaviour in mammals, and the energetics of thermo-regulation, hibernation, and migration in bats. He founded Bat Conservation International (1982) in Austin, Texas to "promote a positive image of bats and encourage their preservation.

Tuttle's interest in bats came at a young age. He moved to Little Creek School, a Seventh-day Adventist boarding school near Concord, Tennessee with his family in 1958. His father was the biology teacher at the school and took many students caving which was how Merlin began exploring nearby Baloney Cave with his high school friends.[1]

In the 1950s, it was believed that gray bats lived in the same caves year-round. Tuttle noticed what seemed to be migratory behavior. He would watch as thousands of gray bats streamed into a cave near the Tennessee River in the fall and again in the spring.[2]

Tuttle convinced his parents to take him to the Smithsonian Institution to discuss his bat observations. The specialists were intrigued and issued him bands through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Tuttle was able to band several hundred by October 1960. Two months later, Tuttle recaptured some of the banded bats in a cave one hundred miles north of Knoxville. He had proven that they had migrated northward.[3]

Tuttle completed his undergraduate work at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and his PhD in population ecology at the University of Kansas. Over the two decades of his study, he banded 40,182 gray bats at locations in six states. More importantly, he was able to recapture over 20,000 of his bats. His work proved the migration of the gray bat, but also began to show a decline in the population. Tuttle became aware of failing nursery colonies in the 1970s. At one point in his studies, he found a 54 percent population decline in six years. At Tuttle's request, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service placed gray bats on the endangered species list in 1976, giving them full protection.[4] He is among the voices who have spearheaded research into the deadly fungal disease White nose syndrome.

Tuttle has been a prominent photographer of bats, and most of the photographs of bats people see in newspaper articles, books, and other sources were taken by him.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bales, Stephen Lyn. "Natural Histories: Stories from the Tennessee Valley" UT Press, 2007. p. 113.
  2. ^ Bales, Stephen Lyn. "Natural Histories: Stories from the Tennessee Valley" UT Press, 2007. p. 113.
  3. ^ Bales, Stephen Lyn. "Natural Histories: Stories from the Tennessee Valley" UT Press, 2007. p. 114.
  4. ^ Bales, Stephen Lyn. "Natural Histories: Stories from the Tennessee Valley" UT Press, 2007. pp. 114-115.

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