Free-ranging bats alter thermoregulatory behavior in response to reproductive stage, roost type, and weather

Scott M. Bergeson, R. Mark Brigham, Joy M. O'keefe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Heterotherms vary their use of torpor and choice of refugia to deal with energetic stresses such as reproductive activity and extreme weather. We hypothesized that a temperate-region bat would vary its use of heterothermy in response to air temperature but use of torpor would also be influenced by reproductive stage and roost choice. To test this hypothesis, we collected data on skin temperatures of female Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis) carrying temperature-sensitive radiotransmitters during the summers of 2013-2015. We also measured internal temperatures and external characteristics of roosts used by these bats. We analyzed the influence of daytime air temperature, roost canopy closure, roost type, and bat reproductive stage, on daily heterothermy index and torpor characteristics of 17 bats during 103 full roost days (data collected consistently from when a bat entered its roost in the morning to when it emerged at night). Our data showed that Indiana bat heterothermy was influenced by reproductive stage, roost choice, and weather. Although they used torpor, pregnant bats were the least heterothermic (daily heterothermy index = 3.3 ± 0.6°C SE), followed by juvenile bats (5.6 ± 0.5°C), lactating bats (5.7 ± 0.5°C), and one postlactating bat (13.2 ± 1.6°C). Air temperature also influenced heterothermy of pregnant bats less than bats of other reproductive stages. Thermoregulatory strategies varied on a continuum from use of normothermia in warm roosts to use of long and deep bouts of torpor in cool roosts. The thermoregulatory strategy used seemed to be determined by potential reproductive costs of torpor and energetic consequences of weather. Because Indiana bats used different degrees of heterothermy throughout the summer maternity season, managers should offer maternity colonies an array of refugia to facilitate varying behaviors in response to weather and energetic demands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)705-717
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Mammalogy
Volume102
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021

Keywords

  • heterothermy
  • microclimate
  • Myotis sodalis
  • reproductive physiology
  • thermoregulation
  • torpor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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