Frequent Arousals from Winter Torpor in Rafinesque's Big-Eared Bat (Corynorhinus rafinesquii)

Joseph S. Johnson, Michael J. Lacki, Steven C. Thomas, John F. Grider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations

Abstract

Extensive use of torpor is a common winter survival strategy among bats; however, data comparing various torpor behaviors among species are scarce. Winter torpor behaviors are likely to vary among species with different physiologies and species inhabiting different regional climates. Understanding these differences may be important in identifying differing susceptibilities of species to white-nose syndrome (WNS) in North America. We fitted 24 Rafinesque's big-eared bats (Corynorhinus rafinesquii) with temperature-sensitive radio-transmitters, and monitored 128 PIT-tagged big-eared bats, during the winter months of 2010 to 2012. We tested the hypothesis that Rafinesque's big-eared bats use torpor less often than values reported for other North American cave-hibernators. Additionally, we tested the hypothesis that Rafinesque's big-eared bats arouse on winter nights more suitable for nocturnal foraging. Radio-tagged bats used short (2.4 d ± 0.3 (SE)), shallow (13.9°C ± 0.6) torpor bouts and switched roosts every 4.1 d ± 0.6. Probability of arousal from torpor increased linearly with ambient temperature at sunset (P<0.0001), and 83% (n = 86) of arousals occurred within 1 hr of sunset. Activity of PIT-tagged bats at an artificial maternity/hibernaculum roost between November and March was positively correlated with ambient temperature at sunset (P<0.0001), with males more active at the roost than females. These data show Rafinesque's big-eared bat is a shallow hibernator and is relatively active during winter. We hypothesize that winter activity patterns provide Corynorhinus species with an ecological and physiological defense against the fungus causing WNS, and that these bats may be better suited to withstand fungal infection than other cave-hibernating bat species in eastern North America.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere49754
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume7
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 21 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General

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