Halloween has its share of imaginary monsters: vampires, werewolves, zombies… But some of the most pervasive symbols of Halloween are real animals, animals that (rightly or wrongly) strike fear in countless people. When you think of Halloween, what creepy creatures come to mind? Bats? Snakes? Cockroaches? Toads?
Imagine being surrounded by these animals. All of them. Starting to sweat? You should be, because you’re deep inside a stiflingly hot cave, in utter darkness, mired ankle-deep in bat guano. You can’t see the bats, but you know they’re there; you can hear them squeaking as they fly overhead, and feel them as they brush past your skin. Does this sound like a nightmare?
It’s just an average day in a Puerto Rican bat cave, and it’s an environment that I recently chose to enter voluntarily. None of the cave’s inhabitants posed any real threat to me. But that didn’t mean that entering their bizarre subterranean world wasn’t a bit… unsettling.
In August, when I was in Puerto Rico conducting research on anoles, my friend Nate and I went on an expedition to find a particular cave, where – according to the stories we had heard – Puerto Rican Boas (Epicrates inornatus) would hang from the cave walls and capture bats in mid-air as the bats emerged to hunt for insects at nightfall. To a couple of die-hard biologists like us, it sounded too good to be true! Did we find the boas and witness their amazing hunting behavior? Watch the video to find out!
National Geographic Young Explorer Neil Losin (UCLA) and his colleague Nate Dappen (University of Miami) are biologists, photographers, and filmmakers. You can see more of their work at Day’s Edge Productions.