Roosting ecology of the southernmost bats, Myotis chiloensis and Histiotus magellanicus,in southern Tierra del Fuego, Chile

  • September 6, 2020
  • by Ossa, G., Lilley, T., Waag, A. G., Meierhofer, M. B., & Johnson, J. S.


There are few studies of day‐roosting ecology of bats inhabiting the southernmost forests of South America, where cool summer temperatures and land management practices pose several challenges. The goal of the present study was to describe day‐roosting habitats and patterns of thermoregulation in two bat species occurring on Tierra del Fuego, Myotis chiloensis (Chilean myotis) and Histiotus magellanicus (southern big‐eared brown bat), during late austral spring. To do so, we tagged 17 bats with temperature‐sensitive radio‐transmitters, located 17 day‐roosts, and collected 81 days of skin temperature data. We concurrently recorded ambient air temperature to determine its effect on torpor use. Both species were found roosting in large diameter (77.8 ± 6 cm), typically live, Nothofagus pumilio trees (lenga) located on the edges of forest gaps or within stands primarily composed of smaller, younger trees. Bats of both species frequently used torpor, with skin temperatures dropping below a torpor threshold on 89% of days (n = 72) and daily minimum skin temperatures averaging 16.5°C over the course of our study. Average daily air temperature was a significant predictor of torpor use, with lower skin temperatures and more time spent in torpor observed on colder days. Minimum skin temperature and time spent torpid did not vary between bat species, nor did the characteristics of day‐roosts. These data show that spring ambient temperatures in Tierra del Fuego pose an energetic challenge that bats meet through frequent use of torpor and, likely, habitat selection. We recommend local conservation efforts keep these thermal challenges in mind by retaining large trees, which may provide warmer microclimates or room for social groups.