Migration and reproduction are associated with similar degrees of phenotypic flexibility in an insectivorous bat

Amie S. Sommers, Elizabeth J. Rogers, Liam P. McGuire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


As organisms face variation in energetic challenges and physiological demands, they often respond with reversible changes in behavior, physiology, and morphology, described as phenotypic flexibility. From the magnitude of phenotypic change, we can infer the energetic challenges of different life stages. We studied phenotypic flexibility in a population of reproductive and pre-migratory female insectivorous bats (Tadarida brasiliensis). While female reproductive demands are well described in insectivorous bats, there are questions regarding the demands of migration. Our objective was to measure phenotypic flexibility to assess the cost of autumn migration compared to reproduction in an insectivorous bat. We measured plasma triglycerides to quantify foraging rate, and body composition (body mass and individual organ mass) of T. brasiliensis throughout the summer season (from arrival in spring through pre-migration/migration departure in autumn) according to the female reproductive cycle. We found phenotypic changes during pre-migration/migration similar to periods of high-energy demand during reproduction (e.g., late pregnancy and lactation). Most notably, bats weighed as much during peak pregnancy, as they did during migration, and the rapid mass gain from post-lactation through the migratory period was due to a combination of hyperphagia and hypertrophy of digestive organs. Our results indicate that energetic demands incurred during migration are similar to those during reproduction and emphasize the energetic challenges of migration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)747-755
Number of pages9
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019


  • Digestive organs
  • Exercise organs
  • Plasma metabolites
  • Reproduction


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