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Winter bat activity in the Canadian prairies

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Abstract:

Periodic arousal from hibernation among mammalian hibernators is poorly understood. In bats, arousal is often associated with flight. We acoustically monitored two rocky areas along the Red Deer River in southeastern Alberta for bat activity in autumn, winter, and spring months. We found bats to be active in all months and at unexpectedly cold temperatures (coldest activity –8°C). Bats were active even when ambient temperatures remained below 0°C during the day and night. We documented Myotis ciliolabrum (Merriam, 1886), Myotis evotis (H. Allen, 1864), and Eptesicus fuscus (Beauvois, 1796) flying outside hibernacula in winter. Active E. fuscus that we captured in mid-winter of 2004–2005 weighed less than bats captured in the fall, but masses ranged from 14.0 to 21.0 g, indicating that some individuals still had fat reserves. Captured individuals were of various ages, with a male bias. Using radiotelemetry, we located the first natural rock-crevice hibernacula for male and female E. fuscus in the Canadian prairies. Winter roosts were narrow, deep rock crevices or erosion holes located in steep valley walls. We found evidence to suggest that dehydration may be a driving force for winter flights.

L’éveil périodique durant l’hibernation chez les mammifères hibernants reste mal compris. Chez les chauves-souris, l’éveil est souvent associé au vol. Nous avons suivi par des méthodes acoustiques l’activité des chauves-souris dans deux régions rocheuses le long de la Red Deer dans le sud-est de l’Alberta durant les mois de l’automne, de l’hiver et du printemps. Nous trouvons des chauves-souris actives à tous les mois et à des températures étonnamment froides (–8ºC, température d’activité la plus basse). Les chauves-souris sont actives même lorsque les températures ambiantes restent sous 0ºC durant le jour et la nuit. Nous avons observé Myotis ciliolabrum (Merriam, 1886), Myotis evotis (H. Allen, 1864) et Eptesicus fuscus (Beauvois, 1796) en train de voler hors de leur hibernacle en hiver. Les E. fuscus capturés au milieu de l’hiver 2004–2005 sont moins lourds que ceux capturés à l’automne, mais leur masse varie de 14,0 à 21,0 g, ce qui indique que certains individus ont encore des réserves lipidiques. Les individus capturés appartiennent à différentes classes d’âge et il y a une majorité de mâles. À l’aide de la radiotélémétrie, nous avons trouvé les premiers hibernacles naturels dans des crevasses rocheuses pour les mâles et les femelles d’E. fuscus dans les prairies canadiennes. Les perchoirs d’hiver consistent en des crevasses rocheuses étroites et profondes ou en des trous d’érosion situés dans des parois escarpées des vallées. Nous avons des indications qui laissent croire que la déshydratation peut être le motif qui explique les vols d’hiver.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2006

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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