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Warming up and shipping out: arousal and emergence timing in hibernating little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus)



Warming up and shipping out: arousal and emergence timing in hibernating little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus)



Journal of Comparative Physiology. B Biochemical Systemic and Environmental Physiology 185(5): 575-586



Phenology refers to the timing of events in the annual cycle of organisms. For temperate-zone mammals, hibernation is one such event, but little is known about its phenology. Hibernation consists of energy-saving torpor bouts interspersed with energetically expensive arousals to normothermic Tb, and hibernators should benefit from mechanisms which reduce arousal costs and help them time arousals to coincide with foraging opportunities. In a previous study, we showed that, in contrast to hibernating bats from warmer climates, little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) from central Canada abandon a circadian pattern to arousal in the middle of winter when there is no chance of feeding. Here, we used temperature telemetry to test whether they would re-synchronize arousals with normal foraging time (i.e. sunset) during late winter as the chance of foraging or emergence opportunities improves, and whether they would synchronize arousals with conspecifics, possibly to exploit social thermoregulation. We also used passive transponders to test whether energy reserves and/or sex differences in reproductive timing influence phenology and the sensitivity of emergence timing to environmental cues. In contrast to patterns in mid-winter, after 7 April 2013, bats synchronized arousals with sunset and with conspecifics. Females emerged earlier than males, and females in the best condition emerged first while body condition had no influence on male emergence timing. Both male and female bats appeared to time emergence with falling barometric pressure, a cue that predicts favourable foraging conditions for bats but which, unlike outside temperature, would have been readily detectable by bats inside the hibernaculum. Our results highlight hibernation traits associated with extreme winter energy limitation for insect-eating bats in cold climates and illustrate the influence of reproductive timing and environmental conditions on hibernation energetics and phenology.

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Accession: 059253570

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 25809999

DOI: 10.1007/s00360-015-0900-1


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