, Volume 113, Issue 4, pp 467–473

Seasonal changes in energetics and torpor patterns in the subtropical blossom-bat Syconycteris australis (Megachiroptera)

  • Dionne K. Coburn
  • Fritz Geiser

DOI: 10.1007/s004420050399

Cite this article as:
Coburn, D. & Geiser, F. Oecologia (1998) 113: 467. doi:10.1007/s004420050399


Little is known about how animals from tropical and subtropical climates adjust their energy expenditure to cope with seasonal changes of climate and food availability. To provide such information, we studied the thermal physiology, torpor patterns and energetics of the nocturnal blossom-bat (Syconycteris australis 18 g) from a subtropical habitat in both summer and winter. In both seasons, S. australis frequently entered daily torpor at ambient temperatures between 12 and 25°C when food and water were withheld. Unlike patterns observed in temperate animals, mean minimum metabolic rates during torpor were lower in summer (0.47 ± 0.07 ml O2 g−1 h−1) than in winter (0.75 ± 0.11 ml O2 g−1 h−1). Body temperatures during torpor were regulated at 19.3 ± 1.0°C in summer and at 23.4 ± 2.0°C in winter. Torpor bout duration was significantly longer in summer (7.3 ± 0.6 h) than in winter (5.5 ± 0.3 h), but in both seasons, bout duration was not affected by ambient temperature. Consequently, average daily metabolic rates were also significantly lower in summer than in winter. Body temperatures and metabolic rates in normothermic bats did not change with season. Our findings on seasonal changes of torpor in this bat from the subtropics are opposite to those made for many species from cold climates which generally show deeper and longer torpor in winter and are often entirely homeothermic in summer. More pronounced torpor in subtropical S. australis in summer may be due to low or unpredictable nectar availability, short nights which limit the time available for foraging, and long days without access to food. Thus, the reversed seasonal response of this subtropical bat in comparison to temperate species may be an appropriate response to ecological constraints.

Key words EnergeticsTorporSubtropicalNectar availabilityThermoregulation

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dionne K. Coburn
    • 1
  • Fritz Geiser
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Zoology, University of New England, Armidale NSW 2351, Australia Fax: 02 67733 814; e-mail: fgeiser@metz.une.edu.auGB