Will temperature effects or phenotypic plasticity determine the thermal response of a heterothermic tropical bat to climate change?

  • Stawski C
  • Geiser F
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Abstract

The proportion of organisms exposed to warm conditions is predicted to increase during global warming. To better understand how bats might respond to climate change, we aimed to obtain the first data on how use of torpor, a crucial survival strategy of small bats, is affected by temperature in the tropics. Over two mild winters, tropical free-ranging bats (Nyctophilus bifax, 10 g, n = 13) used torpor on 95% of study days and were torpid for 33.5618.8% of 113 days measured. Torpor duration was temperature-dependent and an increase in ambient temperature by the predicted 2uC for the 21st century would decrease the time in torpor to 21.8%. However, comparisons among Nyctophilus populations show that regional phenotypic plasticity attenuates temperature effects on torpor patterns. Our data suggest that heterothermy is important for energy budgeting of bats even under warm conditions and that flexible torpor use will enhance bats’ chance of survival during climate change.

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Authors

  • Clare Stawski

  • Fritz Geiser

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