Weather as a proximate explanation for fission–fusion dynamics in female northern long-eared bats

Research paper by Krista J. Patriquin, Marty L. Leonard; Hugh G. Broders; W. Mark Ford; Eric R. Britzke; Alexander Silvis

Indexed on: 09 Nov '16Published on: 03 Nov '16Published in: Animal Behaviour


Publication date: December 2016 Source:Animal Behaviour, Volume 122 Author(s): Krista J. Patriquin, Marty L. Leonard, Hugh G. Broders, W. Mark Ford, Eric R. Britzke, Alexander Silvis Fission–fusion dynamics appear common among temperate bats where females form roost groups that change in size and composition, as females switch roosts almost daily. One hypothesis for frequent roost switching is that females move to find suitable thermal conditions as ambient conditions change. Tests of this hypothesis have, however, been conducted mostly at roosts in artificial structures where microclimate is relatively stable. The goal of our study was to determine whether roost switching and roost use by northern long-eared bats, Myotis septentrionalis, that roost in trees are related to ambient conditions. We used generalized linear fixed effects models to explore the influence of roost characteristics and changes in ambient conditions on the likelihood of roost switching. We used canonical correlation analyses to examine the relationship between ambient conditions and roost characteristics. Roost switching was indeed linked to ambient conditions together with characteristics of roosts on the previous day; the best descriptors of roost switching differed between the two geographical regions we analysed. In Nova Scotia, females were less likely to switch roosts when it rained, particularly if they were in roosts below surrounding canopy whereas they were more likely to switch roosts when they were in roosts of high decay. Females roosted in shorter trees in earlier decay classes on warm days, as well as on windy and rainy days. In Kentucky, females were more likely to switch roosts at high temperatures, particularly when they were in roosts in high decay. Females roosted in shorter, decayed trees on warm days, and in less decayed trees with small diameter on windy and rainy days. Our results suggest bats switch roosts in response to changes in ambient conditions to select suitable roosting conditions, which may explain some of the proximate factors shaping fission–fusion dynamics of bats.