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J Comp Physiol B. 2009 May;179(4):433-41. doi: 10.1007/s00360-008-0328-y. Epub 2008 Dec 27.

Hibernation by a free-ranging subtropical bat (Nyctophilus bifax).

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Department of Zoology, Centre for Behavioural and Physiological Ecology, University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia.


Knowledge about torpor in free-ranging subtropical bats is scarce and it is widely believed that low and stable ambient temperatures are necessary for prolonged torpor. We present temperature-telemetry data from free-ranging male (n = 4) and female (n = 4) subtropical vespertilionid bats, Nyctophilus bifax (approximately 10 g), exposed to pronounced daily fluctuations of ambient temperature. All bats used torpor on every day in winter and both males and females exhibited multi-day torpor bouts of up to 5.4 days. Although females were larger than males, patterns of torpor were similar in both sexes. Torpor use was correlated with prevailing weather conditions and, on days when bats remained torpid, maximum ambient temperature was significantly lower than on days when bats aroused. Moreover, the duration of interbout normothermic periods at night increased with increasing average nightly ambient temperature. Skin temperature of torpid bats varied by 10.2 +/- 3.6 degrees C day(-1) (n = 8, N = 47) and daily minimum skin temperature was positively correlated with the daily minimum ambient temperature. Our study shows that prolonged torpor is an important component of the winter ecology of a subtropical bat and that torpor and activity patterns of N. bifax predominantly reflect prevailing weather conditions.

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