Publication details

Cold arousal - A mechanism used by hibernating bats to reduce the energetic costs of disturbance



Year of publication 2021
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Journal of Thermal Biology
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

Keywords Hibernation; Myotis myotis; Normothermic arousal; Thermal profile; Torpor
Description During the season of hibernation, temperate bats alternate between prolonged bouts of torpor with reduced body temperature and short arousals with a return to normothermy. Hibernating bats are sensitive to non-tactile stimuli and arouse following changes in microclimatic conditions or disturbance from other bats, potential predators, or humans. Here, we used temperature data loggers to register the skin temperature of 38 Myotis myotis bats over two winters (between January and March), during which regular visits were made to the hibernaculum. Two kinds of arousal were observed, normothermic (Tsk > 25 °C) and cold (Tsk < 15 °C). Although bats responded to the presence of a researcher by arousals of both kinds, cold arousals were more frequent (63.8%). We found that mass loss was not affected by the number of disturbances, however it was in positive relationship with the mass at the beginning of the observation and differed between sex and age categories. Furthermore normothermic bats crawling among cluster-mates initiated arousal cascades, which mainly consisted of cold arousals. We failed to detect any effect of age or sex on the number of arousals initiated by normothermic individuals. Warming by only a few degrees requires less energy than a normothermic arousal and we propose it is sufficient to activate the sensory system in order to assess the relevance of external stimuli. Our results indicate that cold arousals reflect a physiological and behavioural adaptation aimed at avoiding the energetic costs of disturbance that can lead to depletion of fat reserves.
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