Body temperature and body mass of hibernating little brown bats Myotis lucifugus in hibernacula affected by white-nose syndrome
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Populations of hibernating bats in the northeastern USA are being decimated by white-nose syndrome (WNS). Although the ultimate cause of death is unknown, one possibility is the premature depletion of fat reserves. The immune system is suppressed during hibernation. Although an elevated body temperature (T b) may facilitate an immune response, it also accelerates the depletion of fat stores. We sought to determine if little brown bats Myotis lucifugus Le Conte 1831 hibernating in WNS-affected hibernacula have an elevated T b and reduced fat stores, relative to WNS-unaffected Indiana bats Myotis sodalis Miller and Allen 1928 from Indiana. We found that WNS-affected M. lucifugus maintain a slightly, but significantly, higher skin temperature (T skin), relative to surrounding rock temperature, than do M. sodalis from Indiana. We also report that WNS-affected M. lucifugus weigh significantly less than M. lucifugus from a hibernaculum outside of the WNS region. However, the difference in T skin is minimal and we argue that the elevated T b is unlikely to explain the emaciation documented in WNS-affected bats.
KeywordsGeomyces destructans Hibernation Immune response Psychrophilic fungus Thermal preference
We thank A. Hicks of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) for organizing trips into WNS-affected mines, and A. Hicks, J. Reichard, and M. Moore for assistance in collecting data. Funding was provided by the Indiana State University Center for North American Bat Research and Conservation.
All procedures were approved by the Indiana State University Animal Care and Use Committee (Protocol: JOW/JB 9-18-2006).
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