Thermal windows on Brazilian free-tailed bats facilitate thermoregulation during prolonged flight

Jonathan D. Reichard, Suresh I. Prajapati, Steven N. Austad, Charles Keller, Thomas H. Kunz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Brazilian free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) experiences challenging thermal conditions while roosting in hot caves, flying during warm daylight conditions, and foraging at cool high altitudes. Using thermal infrared cameras, we identified hot spots along the flanks of free-ranging Brazilian free-tailed bats, ventral to the extended wings. These hot spots are absent in syntopic cave myotis (Myotis velifer), a species that forages over relatively short distances, and does not engage in long-distance migration. We hypothesized that the hot spots, or "radiators," on Brazilian free-tailed bats may be adaptations for migration, particularly in this long-distance, high-flying species. We examined the vasculature of radiators on Brazilian free-tailed bats with transillumination to characterize the unique arrangements of arteries and veins that are positioned perpendicular to the body in the proximal region of the wing. We hypothesized that these radiators aid in maintaining heat balance by flushing the uninsulated thermal window with warm blood, thereby dissipating heat while bats are flying under warm conditions, but shunting blood away and conserving heat when they are flying in cooler air at high altitudes. We also examined fluid-preserved specimens representing 122 species from 15 of 18 chiropteran families and radiators appeared present only in species in the family Molossidae, including both sedentary and migratory species and subspecies. Thus, the radiator appears to be a unique trait that may facilitate energy balance and water balance during sustained dispersal, foraging, and long-distance migration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)358-370
Number of pages13
JournalIntegrative and Comparative Biology
Volume50
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2010
Externally publishedYes

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thermoregulation
Chiroptera
flight
heat
Myotis
caves
Molossidae
foraging
Tadarida
blood
coolers
cameras
water balance
energy balance
arteries
forage
air

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Plant Science

Cite this

Thermal windows on Brazilian free-tailed bats facilitate thermoregulation during prolonged flight. / Reichard, Jonathan D.; Prajapati, Suresh I.; Austad, Steven N.; Keller, Charles; Kunz, Thomas H.

In: Integrative and Comparative Biology, Vol. 50, No. 3, 09.2010, p. 358-370.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Reichard, Jonathan D. ; Prajapati, Suresh I. ; Austad, Steven N. ; Keller, Charles ; Kunz, Thomas H. / Thermal windows on Brazilian free-tailed bats facilitate thermoregulation during prolonged flight. In: Integrative and Comparative Biology. 2010 ; Vol. 50, No. 3. pp. 358-370.
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