Warming up for dinner: Torpor and arousal in hibernating Natterer’s bats (Myotis nattereri) studied by radio telemetry.

  • November 29, 2011
  • by Hope, P. R., & Jones, G.

The frequency and function of arousals during hibernation in free-living mammals are little known. We used temperature-sensitive radio transmitters to measure patterns of torpor, arousal and activity in wild Natterer’s bats Myotis nattereri during hibernation. Duration of torpor bouts ranged from 0.06 to 20.4 days with individual means ranging from 0.9 to 8.9 days. Arousals from torpor occurred most commonly coincident with the time (relative to sunset) typical for bats emerging from summer roosts to forage. Bats with lower body condition indices had a shorter average duration of their torpor bouts. We found a non-linear relationship between duration of torpor bout and ambient temperature: the longest average torpor bouts were at temperatures between 2 and 4°C with shorter bouts at lower and higher ambient temperatures. One individual was radio-tracked for ten nights, remained active for an average of 297 min each night and was active for longer on warmer nights. Our results suggest that vespertilionid bats use relatively short torpor bouts during hibernation in a location with a maritime climate. We hypothesise that Natterer’s bats time arousals to maximise opportunities for potential foraging during winter although winter feeding is not the sole determinant of arousal as bats still arouse at times when foraging is unlikely.