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Moulting matters: the importance of understanding moulting cycles in bats when using fur for endogenous marker analysis

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Abstract:

Endogenous markers are a valuable indicator of individual animal ecology, but data interpretation requires a detailed understanding of the timing of tissue formation. Fur is commonly used in bat research using endogenous markers, but the moulting cycles of most bat species are not well documented. In this review, we (i) describe methods of investigating bat moulting; (ii) summarize the current literature on bat moulting cycles, highlighting broad trends; (iii) discuss knowledge gaps; and (iv) make recommendations for optimal fur sampling protocols. Three characteristics may indicate moulting in bats: changing skin pigmentation; visible fur growth and colour changes; and endogenous markers. Most studies reported new fur growth once annually during summer–fall, although there were exceptions. The timing of new fur growth varies among species, sexes, and age classes. Individuals commonly experience asynchronous new fur growth, with dorsal fur growth occurring before ventral. Specific moult progressions vary among species. Knowledge gaps include moulting cycles in tropical species and in subadult and yearling bats; migration during new fur growth; and the timing of fur growth compared with shedding. We recommend that fur samples taken dorsally from adult males are the most likely to be representative of the bat’s site of summer residency.

Keywords: article de synthèse; bats; chauves-souris; endogenous markers; fur; marqueurs endogènes; moulting or molting cycle; mue ou cycle de mue; poils; review

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/cjz-2013-0072

Affiliations: 1: Environmental Science (Biology), Memorial University of Newfoundland – Grenfell Campus, 20 University Drive, Corner Brook, NL A2H 5G4, Canada. 2: Department of Earth Sciences, The University of Western Ontario, London, ON N6A 5B7, Canada. 3: Department of Biology, The University of Western Ontario, London, ON N6A 5B7, Canada.

Publication date: January 1, 2013

More about this publication?
  • 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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