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Daily torpor reduces the energetic consequences of habitat selection for a widespread bat

Alston, J.; Dillon, M. E.; Keinath, D. A.; Abernethy, I. M.; Goheen, J. R.


Homeothermy requires increased metabolic rates as temperatures decline below the thermoneutral zone, so homeotherms typically select microhabitats within or near their thermoneutral zones during periods of inactivity. However, many mammals and birds are heterotherms that relax internal controls on body temperature when maintaining a high, stable body temperature is energetically costly. Such heterotherms should be less tied to microhabitats near their thermoneutral zones, and because heterotherms spend more time in torpor and expend less energy at colder temperatures, heterotherms may even select microhabitats in which temperatures are well below their thermoneutral zones. We studied how temperature and daily torpor influence selection of diurnal roosts by a heterothermic bat (Myotis thysanodes). We (1) quantified the relationship between ambient temperature and daily duration of torpor, (2) simulated daily energy expenditure over a range of microhabitat (roost) temperatures, and (3) quantified the influence of roost temperature on roost selection. While warm roosts substantially reduced energy expenditure of simulated homeothermic bats, heterothermic bats modulated their use of torpor to maintain a constant level of energy expenditure over the course of a day. Daily torpor expanded the range of energetically economical microhabitats, such that roost selection was independent of roost temperature. Our work adds to a growing literature documenting functions of torpor beyond its historical conceptualization as a last-resort measure to save energy during extended or acute energetic stress.

Keywords: Bayesian hierarchical models; climate change; daily torpor; fringed myotis (Myotis thysanodes); temporal heterothermy; thermal ecology; VHF telemetry

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