Volunteers using the app can upload the recordings to a website to keep track of bat populations.

- A smartphone app helps people capture the ultrasonic calls of bats in their area.

- Volunteer bat-trackers can record the calls of more than 900 species of bat.

Scientists have created a "batphone" by designing a smartphone app to help people capture the ultrasonic calls of bats in their area, the Zoological Society of London has revealed.

The iBats app for iPhones and Android phones aims to make it easier to monitor local bat species, by replacing three pieces of recording kit with just a phone and an ultrasonic microphone.

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Researchers say it will help a network of more than 700 volunteer bat-trackers around the world who are part of a monitoring program called iBats, in their efforts to record bat calls in the United Kingdom, Eastern Europe, Ukraine, Russia and Japan.

The app can record the calls of more than 900 species of bat, which use echolocation to find food and to navigate.

Volunteers will be able to upload the calls onto the iBats website where specialist software will identify the species that have been recorded, giving scientists more information about the bats that populate our skies.

Kate Jones, iBats project manager at ZSL, said, "Bats are like a heart monitor for wildlife.

"Their presence can tell us a lot about the health of the environment because they have an important role in terms of eating insects and acting as pollinators for many different plant species.

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"We hope the iBats app will encourage more people to monitor their local bats and make a contribution to the global conservation of wildlife."

The app has been developed by the ZSL in conjunction with the Bat Conservation Trust, George Roussos of Birbeck, University of London and Adam Talcott of Atomic Powered, USA.

The iBats scheme is funded by the U.K. Government's Darwin Initiative and the Leverhulme Trust.