The mountain long-eared bat, Plecotus macrobullaris, is a recently described species, and characterisation of its geographic and elevational distribution is still in progress. Captures in various environments led to a controversial ecological perception, with P. macrobullaris initially defined as an alpine species but subsequently found in the Mediterranean seashore and other lowland areas. Sampling efforts hitherto were uneven; this bat has been studied more thoroughly in Western Europe than in the eastern portion of its range, and in lowlands more than highlands or alpine environments. For greater insight into its distribution pattern, we conducted a field survey in several mountain areas of its known range, using a novel mist-netting technique (described herein) that has proven very useful for targeting and capturing low-flying open-space bats in alpine environments. We also gathered all available distribution data on this species from published resources and by contacting researchers, obtaining records at 351 total localities (including 113 from other authors' unpublished reports and 45 from our own fieldwork). We concluded that P. macrobullaris is present in the main Western Palearctic mountain ranges, extending from the Pyrenees to the Middle East, and has an elevational distribution from sea level up to 2,800 m. The high number of these bats captured foraging above the timberline, in addition to the exclusively mountainous distribution, indicate that the species is indeed alpine, showing a pattern similar to other highly mobile vertebrates restricted to mountain areas and absent from flatlands. Nevertheless, its apparent elevational distribution may still be biased toward lower areas, due to the scarcity of surveys in high mountain habitats.
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Vol. 15 • No. 2