Cover Image


A Bat Man in the Tropics

Chasing El Duende

Theodore Fleming (Author), Harry W. Greene (Foreword)

The euphoria of discovery is the only motivation many scientists need for studying nature and its secrets. Yet euphoria is rarely expressed in scientific publications. This book, a personal account of more than thirty years of fieldwork by one of the world’s leading bat biologists, wonderfully conveys the thrill of scientific discovery. Theodore Fleming’s work to document the lives and ecological importance of plant-visiting bats has taken him to the tropical forests of Panama, Costa Rica, and Australia, and to the lush Sonoran Desert of northwest Mexico and Arizona. This book tells the story of his fascinating career and recounts his many adventures in the field.

Fleming weaves autobiographical reflections together with information on the natural history and ecology of bats and describes many other animals and plants he has encountered. His book details the stresses and rewards of life in scientific field camps, gives portraits of prominent biologists such as Dan Janzen and Peter Raven, and traces the development of modern tropical biology. A witness to the destruction and development of many of the forests he has visited throughout his career, Fleming makes a passionate plea for the conservation of these wild places.
List of Illustrations

1. Up a Quebrada without a Paddle
2. Year of the Marmosa
3. Along the Río Corobici
4. El Duende
5. Three Hundred Nights of Solitude
6. Anastasio’s Last Stand
7. Vampyrum
8. Fooling Around with Flying Foxes
9. Tracy’s Hypothesis
10. Along the Nectar Trail
11. In the Blink of an Eye

Appendix 1. A Brief Overview of Bat Diversity
Appendix 2. Some Common and Scientific Names Used in the Text
Theodore H. Fleming is Professor of Biology at the University of Miami, author of The Short-Tailed Fruit Bat: A Study in Plant-Animal Interactions (1988) and coeditor with A. Valiente-Banuet of Columnar Cacti and Their Mutualists: Evolution, Ecology, and Conservation (2002), among other books.
“Gives the readers a first hand thrill of scientific discovery, and the wonders of the often hidden lives of bats. . . .Well-written and entertaining. It is designed to be of interest to the student, field biologist, and lay person alike. Fleming does a superb job of communicating the excitement for field work and love for the creatures he studies.”—Michael R. Gannon, Pennsylvania State Univ. Ecology
“Bats...are victims of bad PR... A good deal of credit for dispelling misinformation about bats goes to Fleming, one of the rare humans for whom bats are a passion. Fleming’s account... is notable not just for war stories and bat lore, but also for his instructive account of the variety of investigative techniques required to practice good biology.”—Natural History
“Candid. . . . Enriched. . . . I highly recommend.”—M B Fenton The Quarterly Review Of Biology
“Better than most scientists, Fleming is able to eloquently express the joy of fieldwork and discovery, and weave natural history with autobiography...Of great interest to anyone who loves natural history and wants to better understand these fascinating animals.”—DRK Wildlife Activist
"In each generation, a few gifted scientists arise—a Sagan, a Gamow, a Wilson—who have the ability to command the respect from their scientific peers, while persuasively explaining science to a lay audience. Professor Fleming joins that elite group with A Batman in the Tropics. His eloquent plea for the preservation of the world's most misunderstood, and yet biologically important, creatures is a conservation classic. This is the book on bats for professional biologists, ecologists, conservationists, and armchair adventurers."—Paul Alan Cox, Director of the National Tropical Botanical Garden

"Ted Fleming's career as a tropical field biologist spans a time of unprecedented change. His experiences are not only fascinating; they highlight our interdependency with nature, human impact on the health of our planet, and the urgent need for wise stewardship."—Merlin Tuttle, founder and president of Bat Conservation International

"An intriguing first-hand account of what it is really like to be a talented field biologist, and what it takes to discover basic facts about behavioral ecology in the natural world."—Donald R. Griffin, author of Animal Minds: Beyond Cognition to Consciousness

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