Michael Gerhard Schöner

Applied Zoology and Nature Conservation

Johann-Sebastian-Bach-Str. 11/12
17489 Greifswald

Tel.: +49 (0)3834 420-4273
Fax: +49 (0)3834 420-4252

Research Interests

Proximate Mechanisms of the Interactions between Bats (Kerivoula hardwickii) and Carnivorous Pitcher Plants (Nepenthes)

Mutualistic interactions are major drivers of evolution. Since 2009 I am researching on the interaction between bats and pitcher plants on Borneo. The small bat species Kerivoula hardwickii is roosting in the pitcher-like trapping organs of carnivorous plants. With one of these pitcher plants (Nepenthes hemsleyana) the bat is maintaining a symbiosis: while the bat has a safe place to sleep, the plant gains nutrients (e.g. nitrogen, potassium, phosphate) from the bats’ feces. This mutualism requires certain mechanisms so that both partners are able to interact with each other: Both the pitchers and the bats occur in vegetation-dense peat swamp forests and are rare. Nepenthes hemsleyana needs a balanced height of their digestive fluid so that bat roosting is possible and not conflicting with nutrient uptake. The bats have to stick inside the pitchers without injuring the plants too much. Thus, I am raising the following questions: Which traits of the bats and the pitcher plants enable their gathering? Do both partners show morphologies, which facilitate their interactions but are missing in closely related species? In which ways are the bats interacting with different pitcher plants (symbiosis, commensalism, parasitism)? To find answers, I am using methodologically broad approaches including non-invasive in-situ experiments, bioacoustics, radio-telemetry or morphological comparisons. My research shall provide new insights into mutualistic mechanisms and raise the awareness for fragile ecosystems like Borneo’s peat swamps.

Relevant Publications

  • Schöner, C.R., Schöner, M.G., Grafe, T.U., Clarke, C.M., Dombrowski, L., Tan, M.C. & Kerth, G. (2016): Ecological outsourcing: a pitcher plant benefits from transferring pre-digestion of prey to a bat mutualist. Journal of Ecology, early view. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12653.
  • Schöner, M.G., Schöner, C.R., Kerth, G., Ji, L.L. & Grafe, T.U. (2016): Bats attend to plant structures to identify roosting sites. Acta Chiropterologica 18: 433-440.
  • Schöner, M.G., Simon, R. & Schöner, C.R. (2016): Acoustic communication in plant - animal interactions. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 32: 88-95.
  • Struebig, M.J., Huang, J.C.-C.H., Mohamed, N.Z., Noerfahmy, S., Schöner, C.R., Schöner, M.G. & Francis, C.M. (2016): Forest surveys extend the range of the Krau woolly bat (Kerivoula krauensis) in the Malay-Thai Peninsula, Borneo and Sumatra. Mammalia online early.
  • Lim, Y. S., C. R. Schöner, M. G. Schöner, G. Kerth, D. G. Thornham, M. Scharmann & T. U. Grafe (2015): How a pitcher plant facilitates roosting of mutualistic woolly bats. Evolutionary Ecology Research 16: 581–591.
  • Schöner, M. G., C. R. Schöner, R. Simon, T. U. Grafe, S. J. Puechmaille, L. L. Ji & G. Kerth (2015): Bats are acoustically attracted to mutualistic carnivorous plants. Current Biology 25: 1-6.
  • Schöner, C. R., M. G. Schöner, G. Kerth, S. N. Suhaini & T. U. Grafe (2015): Low costs reinforce the mutualism between bats and pitcher plants. Zoologischer Anzeiger - A Journal of Comparative Zoology 258: 1-5.
  • Schöner, C. R., M. G. Schöner, G. Kerth & T. U. Grafe (2013): Supply determines demand: Influence of partner quality and quantity on the interactions between bats and pitcher plants. Oecologia 173: 191-202x.
  • Schöner, M. G. & C. R. Schöner (2013): Batty and Pitty. Children’s story. Illustrated by Claudia Spitzkopf and Robin Schöfer. Free download: www.seabcru.org/outreach/brunei-outreach-materials.
  • Schöner, M. G. & C. R. Schöner (2013): Symbiotischer Untermieter gesucht. Hardwicke-Wollfledermäuse schlafen in fleischfressenden Pflanzen. Hundkatzepferd. Das Fachmagazin für den Tierarzt. 6: 2-4.
  • Schöner, M. G. & C. R. Schöner (2012): Fledermausporträt: Hardwicke-Wollfledermaus, Kerivoula hardwickii (Horsefield, 1824). Nyctalus (N.F.) 17: 400-404.
  • Schöner, C. R. & M. G. Schöner (2012): Living inside a deadly trap. Woolly bats use carnivorous pitcher plants as roosts. Bats 30 (3): 2-3.
  • Grafe, T. U., C. R. Schöner, A. Junaidi, G. Kerth & M. G. Schöner (2011): A novel resource-service mutualism between bats and pitcher plants. Biology Letters 7: 436-439.
  • Schöner, C. R., M. G. Schöner & G. Kerth (2010): Similar is not the same: Social calls of conspecifics are more effective in attracting wild bats to day roosts than those of other bat species. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 46: 2053-2063.


I am coordinator of the DFG graduate School GRK2010 "RESPONSE - Biological RESPONSEs to Novel and Changing Environments" .

Former Activities and Research

From 2015-2016 I coordinated the central education programme for teachers (stand-in for parental leave) at the University of Greifswald.

From 2014-2015 I've been involved in the long-term BMBF-project WindBat (University of Erlangen) that aims to reduce the mortal impact of wind turbines on bats.