Oecologia

, Volume 111, Issue 3, pp 309-317

First online:

Rainfall, food abundance and timing of parturition in African bats

  • G. S. CummingAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology and Entomology, Rhodes University, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa
  • , R. T. F. BernardAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology and Entomology, Rhodes University, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa

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Abstract

We used published results from studies in Africa to test the hypothesis that the timing of parturition in the Chiroptera is constrained by rainfall. Comparison of year-round rainfall and insect data at various latitudes showed that insect abundance peaks approximately a month after peak rainfall. A similar comparison of parturition time to rainfall showed that with the possible exception of the molossids, the Microchiroptera commonly give birth a month before peak rainfall. With an average 6-week lactation period in the Microchiroptera, the timing of parturition is such that young bats are weaned just before the period of maximum insect abundance. We suggest that the needs of the young in this post-weaning period may be more important than the energetic demands of lactation on the mother in determining the timing of parturition on an evolutionary scale. A similar conclusion is implied for the African Megachiroptera, but there is insufficient information on their reproduction to adequately test the main hypothesis for these bats.

Key words Chiroptera Food abundance Parturition Phenology Reproduction