Behavioural microclimate selection and physiological responses to environmental conditions in a hibernating bat

Justin G. Boyles, Emily M. Johnson, Nathan W. Fuller, Kirk A. Silas, Lily Hou, Winifred F. Frick, Liam P. McGuire

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Hibernators adjust the expression of torpor behaviourally and physiologically to balance the benefits of energy conservation in hibernation against the physiological and ecological costs. Small fat-storing species, like many cave-hibernating bats, have long been thought to be highly constrained in their expression of hibernation because they must survive winter relying only on endogenous energy stores. We evaluated behavioural microclimate selection in tri-colored bats (Perimyotis subflavus (F. Cuvier, 1832)) across a 3-month hibernation experiment under laboratory conditions. We also opportunistically tested for evidence of acclimatization in torpid metabolic rate (TMR). When given access to gradients in microclimate, bats tended to choose the warmest temperature available (11 °C) while almost completely avoiding the driest condition available (85% relative humidity at 8 °C). Furthermore, bats held at different temperatures over the course of the hibernation showed no differences in TMR when measured under common conditions at the end of hibernation. Taken together, our results suggest that selective pressures to conserve energy during hibernation are not overwhelmingly strong and further support the proposition that optimal expression of hibernation is something less than the maximal expression of hibernation unless the animal is nearing starvation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-238
Number of pages6
JournalCanadian Journal of Zoology
Volume100
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

Keywords

  • Microclimate
  • Optimal hibernation
  • Perimyotis subflavus
  • Torpor
  • Tri-colored bats

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