, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 211–222 | Cite as

Ageing Studies on Bats: A Review

  • Anja K. Brunet-Rossinni
  • Steven N. Austad


Bat biologists have long known about the exceptional longevity of bats (Order: Chiroptera), which is unusual for mammals of such a small size and a high metabolic rate. Yet relatively few mechanistic studies have focused on this longevity. On average, species of Chiroptera live three times longer than predicted by their body size. In addition, bats have other life history traits that are characteristic of large, long-lived mammals such as few and large offspring and slow growth rates. Bats fit the evolutionary theory of ageing, as their extended longevity is predicted by their ability to escape extrinsic mortality through flight and, in some species, hibernation. They also show tradeoffs between longevity and reproduction, as predicted by the disposable soma theory of ageing. From a physiological perspective, bat longevity reportedly correlates with replicative longevity, low brain calpain activity, and reduced reactive oxygen species production. As long-lived and physiologically interesting organisms, bats may prove to be an informative model system for ageing research.

ageing bats calpain activity chiroptera longevity reactive oxygen species replicative longevity 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anthony ELP (1988) Age determination in bats. In: Kunz TH (ed) Ecological and Behavioral Methods for the Study of Bats, pp 47–58. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  2. Armstrong RB, Ianuzzo CD and Kunz TH (1977) Histochemical and Biochemical properties of flight muscle fibers in the little brown bat, Myotis lucifugus. J Comp Physiol B 119: 141–154Google Scholar
  3. Austad SN (1997) Comparative aging and life histories of mammals. Exp Gerontol 32: 23–38Google Scholar
  4. Austad SN and Fischer KE (1991) Mammalian ageing, metabolism and ecology: evidence from the bats and marsupials. J Gerontol 46: B47–B53Google Scholar
  5. Bahr BA, Vanderklish PW, Ha LT, Tin M, KesslerMand Lynch G (1991) Spectrin breakdown products increase with age in telencephalon of mouse brain. Neurosci Lett 131: 237–240Google Scholar
  6. Barclay RMR (1994) Constraints on reproduction by flying vertebrates: energy and calcium. Am Nat 144: 1021–1031Google Scholar
  7. Barclay RMR (1995) Does energy or calcium availability constrain reproduction by bats? Symp Zool Soc Lond 67: 245–258Google Scholar
  8. Barclay RMR and Harder LD (2003) Life histories of bats: life in the slow lane. In: Kunz TH and Fenton MB (eds) Bat Ecology, pp 209–253. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  9. Barja G (2002) Rate of generation of oxidative stress-related damage and animal longevity. Free Radic Biol Med 33: 1167–1172Google Scholar
  10. Baudry M, DuBrin R, Beasley L, Leon M and Lynch G (1986) Low levels of calpain activity in Chiroptera brain: implications for mechanisms of aging. Neurobiol Aging 7: 255–258Google Scholar
  11. Blasco MA (2003) Mammalian telomeres and telomerase: why they matter for cancer and aging. Eur J Cell Biol 82: 441–446Google Scholar
  12. Bourliere MD (1958) The comparative biology of aging. J Gerontol 13: 16–24Google Scholar
  13. Brunet-Rossinni AK (2004) Reduced free-radical production and extreme longevity in the little brown bat (Myotis lucifi-gus) versus two non-flying mammals. Mech Ageing Dev 125: 11–20Google Scholar
  14. Charlesworth B (1980) Evolution in Age-Structured Populations. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United KingdomGoogle Scholar
  15. Choi I-H, Cho Y, Oh YK, Jung N-P and Shin H-C (1998) Behavior and muscle performance in heterothermic bats. Physiol Zool 71: 257–266Google Scholar
  16. Corwin JT and Oberholtzer JC (1997) Fish n' chicks: model recipes for hair-cell regeneration? Neuron 19: 951–954Google Scholar
  17. Cristofalo VJ and Pignolo RJ (1995) Cell culture as a model. In: Masoro EJ (ed) Handbook of Physiology Sect 11: Aging, pp 53–82. American Physiological Society, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. Croall DE and DeMartino GN (1991) Calcium-activated neutral protease (calpain) system: structure, function, and regulation. Physiol Rev 71: 813–847Google Scholar
  19. Davis WH (1970) Hibernation: ecology and physiological ecology. In: Wimsatt WA (ed) Biology of Bats, pp 265–300. Academic Press, Inc., New YorkGoogle Scholar
  20. Fenton MB (1982) Ecolocation, insect hearing, and feeding ecology of insectivorous bats. In: Kunz TH (ed) Ecology of Bats, pp 261–285. Plenum Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  21. Fransen E, Lemkens N, Van Laer L and Van Camp G (2003) Age-related hearing impairment (ARHI): environmental risk factors and genetic prospects. Exp Gerontol 38: 353–359Google Scholar
  22. Harlow H, Lohuis T, Beck T and Iaizzo P (2001) Muscle strength in overwintering bears. Nature 409: 997Google Scholar
  23. Harman D (1956) Aging: a theory based on free radical radiation chemistry. J Gerontol 11: 298–300Google Scholar
  24. Harvey PH and Zammuto RM (1985) Patterns of mortality and age at first reproduction in natural populations of mammals. Nature 315: 319–320Google Scholar
  25. Hayssen V and Kunz TH (1996) Allometry in litter mass in bats: maternal size, wing morphology, and phylogeny. J Mamm 77: 476–490Google Scholar
  26. Hayssen V, van Tienhoven A and van Tienhoven A (1993) Asdell's Patterns of Mammalian Reproduction. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  27. Heideman PD (2000) Environmental regulation of reproduction. In: Crichton EG and Krutzsch PH (eds) Reproductive Biology of Bats, pp 469–500. Academic Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  28. Herreid CF (1964) Bat longevity and metabolic rate. Exp Gerontol 1: 1–9Google Scholar
  29. Hill JE and Smith JD (1984) Bats: A Natural History. University of Texas Press, Austin, TexasGoogle Scholar
  30. Hofman MA (1983) Energy metabolism, brain size and longevity in mammals. Q Rev Biol 58: 495–512Google Scholar
  31. Holden CP and Storey KB (1998) Protein kinase A from bat skeletal muscle: a kinetic study of the enzyme from a hibernating mammal. Arch Biochem Biophys 358: 243–250Google Scholar
  32. Holmes DJ and Austad SN (1994) Fly now, die later: life-history correlates of gliding and flying mammals. J Mamm 75: 224–226Google Scholar
  33. Hudson NJ and Franklin CE (2002) Maintaining muscle mass during extended disuse: aestivating frogs as a model species. J Exp Biol 205: 2297–2303Google Scholar
  34. Johnasson BW (1967) Heart and circulation in hibernators. Mammal Hibern 3: 200–218Google Scholar
  35. Jones KE and MacLarnon A (2001) Bat life histories: testing models of mammalian life-history evolution. Evol Ecol Res 3: 465–476Google Scholar
  36. Jürgens KD and Prothero J (1987) Scaling of maximal lifespan in bats. Comp Biochem Physiol A 88: 361–367Google Scholar
  37. Kallen FC (1977) The cardiovascular system of bats: structure and function. In: Wimsatt WA (ed) Biology of Bats, pp 289–483. Academic Press, Inc., New YorkGoogle Scholar
  38. Keegan DJ (1977) Aspects of the assimilation of sugars by Rousettus aegyptiacus. Comp Biochem Physiol A 58: 349–352Google Scholar
  39. Kim MH, Park K, Gwag BJ, Jung N-P, Oh YK, Shin H-C and Choi IH (2000) Seasonal biochemical plasticity of a flight muscle in a bat, Murina leucogaster. Comp Biochem Physiol A 126: 245–250Google Scholar
  40. Kirkegaard M and Jørgensen JM (2000) Continuous hair cell turnover in the inner ear vestibular organs of a mammal, the Daubenton's bat (Myotis daubentonii) Naturwissenschaften 87: 83–86Google Scholar
  41. Kirkwood TBL (1977) Evolution of ageing. Nature 270: 301–304Google Scholar
  42. Kirkwood TBL (1996) Human senescence. BioEssays 18: 1009–1016Google Scholar
  43. Kunz TH (1982) Roosting ecology. In: Kunz TH (ed) Ecology of Bats, pp 1–55. Plenum Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  44. Kunz TH and Lumsden LF (2003) Ecology of cavity and foliage roosting bats. In: Kunz TH and Fenton MB (eds) Bat Ecology, pp 3–89. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  45. Kunz TH, Whitaker Jr JO and Wadanoli MD (1995) Dietary energetics of the insectivorous Mexican free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) during pregnancy and lactation. Oecologia 103: 407–415Google Scholar
  46. Kurta A and Kunz TH (1987) Size of bats at birth and maternal investment during pregnancy. Symp Zool Soc Lond 57: 79–106Google Scholar
  47. Kurta A, Bell GP, Nagy KA and Kunz TH (1989) Energetics of pregnancy and lactation in free-ranging little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus). Physiol Zool 62: 804–818Google Scholar
  48. LeBlanc K, Lehman CT, Macias MY and Thompson JL (1988) Biomechanical problems and recover of long-term hospitalized patients: anti-gravity effect. J Appl Physiol 73: 92–102Google Scholar
  49. Lee M, Choi I and Park K (2002) Activation of stress signaling molecules in bat brain during arousal from hibernation. J Neurochem 82: 867–873Google Scholar
  50. Lollar A and Schmidt-French B (1998) Captive Care and Medical Reference for the Rehabilitation of Insectivorous Bats. Bat World Publications, Mineral Wells, TexasGoogle Scholar
  51. Luan R and Hanák V (2002) A long-term study of a population of Daubenton's bat Myotis daubentonii. Bat Res News 43: 96Google Scholar
  52. Lyman CP (1970) Thermoregulation and metabolism in bats. In: Wimsatt WA (ed) Biology of Bats, pp 301–330. Academic Press, Inc., New YorkGoogle Scholar
  53. Masoro EJ (1996) Possible mechanisms underlying the antiaging actions of caloric restriction. Toxicol Pathol 24: 738–741Google Scholar
  54. Medawar PB (1952) An Unsolved Problem in Biology. H.K. Lewis, LondonGoogle Scholar
  55. Menaker M (1964) Frequency of spontaneous arousal from hibernation in bats. Nature 203: 540–541Google Scholar
  56. Michelmore AJ, Keegan DJ and Kramer B (1998) Immunocytochemical identification of endocrine cells in the pancreas of the fruit bat, Rousettus aegyptiacus. General Comp Endocrinol 110: 319–325Google Scholar
  57. Moratelli R, Andrade CM and de Armada JLA (2002) A technique to obtain fibroblast cells from skin biopsies of living bats (Chiroptera) for cytogenetic studies. Gen Mol Res 1: 128–130Google Scholar
  58. Neuweiler G (2000) The Biology of Bats. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  59. Pauziene N, Pauza DH and Stropus R (2000) Morphological study of the heart innervation of bats Myotis daubentoni and Eptesicus serotinus (Microchiroptera: Vespertilionidae) during hibernation. Eur J Morphol 38: 195–205Google Scholar
  60. Pearl R (1928) The Rate of Living. A.A. Knopf, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  61. Pettigrew JD (1986) Flying primates? Megabats have the advanced pathway from eye to midbrain. Science 231: 1304–1306Google Scholar
  62. Pettigrew JD (1994) Genomic evolution: flying DNA. Curr Biol 4: 277–280Google Scholar
  63. Pettigrew JD, Jamieson BGM, Robson SK, Hall LS, McAnally KI and Cooper HM (1989) Phylogenetic relations between microbats, megabats and primates (Mammalia: Chiroptera and Primates). Phil Trans Royal Soc Lond B 325: 489–559Google Scholar
  64. Petri B, Neuweiler G and Pääbo S (1995) Mitochondrial diversity and heteroplasmy in two European populations of the large mouse-eared bat, Myotis myotis. Symp Zool Soc Lond 67: 397–403Google Scholar
  65. Petri B, von Haeseler A, and Pääbo S (1996) Extreme sequence heteroplasmy in bat mitochondrial DNA. Biol Chem 377: 661–667Google Scholar
  66. Promislow DEL and Harvey PH (1990) Living fast and dying young: a comparative analysis of life-history variation among mammals. J Zool Lond 220: 417–437Google Scholar
  67. Promislow DEL and Harvey PH (1991) Mortality rates and the evolution of mammal life histories. Acta Oecol 12: 119–137Google Scholar
  68. Racey PA (1982) Ecology of bat reproduction. In: Kunz TH (ed) Ecology of Bats, pp 57–104. Plenum Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  69. Racey PA and Speakman JR (1987) The energy costs of pregnancy and lactation in heterothermic bats. Symp Zool Soc Lond 57: 107–125Google Scholar
  70. Rachmatulina IK (1992) Major demographic characteristics of populations of certain bats from Azerbaijan. In: Horacek J and Vohralik V (eds) Prague Studies in Mammalogy, pp 127–141. Charles University Press, PragueGoogle Scholar
  71. Ransome RD (1995) Earlier breeding shortens life in female greater horseshoe bats. Phil Trans Soc Lond B 350: 153–161Google Scholar
  72. Rasweiler JJ (1977) The care and management of bats as laboratory animals. In: Wimsatt WA (ed) Biology of Bats, pp 519–617. Academic Press, Inc., New YorkGoogle Scholar
  73. Read AF and Harvey PH (1989) Life-history differences among the eutherian radiations. J Zool Lond 219: 329–353Google Scholar
  74. Röhme D (1981) Evidence for a relationship between longevity of mammalian species and lifespans of normal fibroblasts in vitro and erythrocytes in vivo. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 78: 5009–5013Google Scholar
  75. Sacher GA (1959) Relation of lifespan to brain weight and body weight in mammals. Ciba Found Coll 5: 115–141Google Scholar
  76. Sacher GA (1977) Life table modification and life prolongation. In: Finch CE and Hayflick L (eds) Handbook of the Biology of Aging, pp 582–638. Van Nostrand Reinhold, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  77. Schuknecht HF and Gacek MR (1993) Cochlear pathology in presbycusis. Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol 102: 1–16Google Scholar
  78. Simmons NB (2000) Bat phylogeny: an evolutionary context for comparative studies. In: Adams RA and Pedersen SS (eds) Ontogeny, Functional Ecology, and Evolution of Bats, pp 9–58. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United KingdomGoogle Scholar
  79. Sloane JA, Hinman JD, Lubonia M, Hollander W and Abraham CR (2003) Age-dependent myelin degeneration and proteolysis of oligodendrocyte proteins is associated with the activation of calpain-1 in the rhesus monkey. J Neurochem 84: 157–168Google Scholar
  80. Smith JD and Madkour G (1980) Penial morphology and the question of chiropteran phylogeny. In: Wilson DE and Gardner AL (eds) Proceedings of the Fifth International Bat Research Conference, pp 347–365. Texas Tech Press, Lubbock, TexasGoogle Scholar
  81. Sohal RS (1986) The rate of living theory: a contemporary interpretation. In: Collatz KG and Sohal RS (eds) Insect Aging: Strategies and Mechanisms, pp 23–44. Springer-Verlag, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  82. Speakman JR and Thomas DW (2003) Physiological ecology and energetics of bats. In: Kunz TH and Fenton MB (eds) Bat Ecology, pp 209–253. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  83. St-Pierre J, Buchingham JA, Roebuck SJ and Brand MD (2002) Topology of superoxide production from different sites in the mitochondrial electron transport chain. J Biol Chem 277: 44784–44790Google Scholar
  84. Studier EH and O'Farrell MM (1972) Biology of Myotis thysanodes and M. lucifugus (Chiroptera: Vespertilionidae). I. Thermoregulation. Comp Biochem Physiol A 41: 567–595Google Scholar
  85. Thomas SP (1987) The physiology of bat flight. In: Fenton MN, Racey P and Rayner JMV (eds) Recent Advances in the Study of Bats, pp 75–99. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United KingdomGoogle Scholar
  86. Thomas SP and Suthers RA (1972) The physiology and energetics of bat flight. J Exp Biol 57: 317–335Google Scholar
  87. Tinker D, Harlow H and Beck T (1998) Protein use and muscle fiber changes in free ranging, hibernating black bears. Physiol Zool 71: 414–424Google Scholar
  88. Tuttle MD and Stevenson D (1982) Growth and survival of bats. In: Kunz TH (ed) Ecology of Bats, pp 105–150. Plenum Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  89. Vanderklish PW and Bahr BA (2000) The pathogenic activation of calpain: a marker and madiator of cellular toxicity and disease states. Int J Exp Path 81: 323–339Google Scholar
  90. Van den Busche RA, Baker RJ, Huelsenbeck JP and Hillis DM (1998) Base compositional bias and phylogenetic analyses: a test of the 'flying DNA' hypothesis. Mol Phylogen and Evol 10: 408–416Google Scholar
  91. Van der Westhuyzen J (1976) The feeding pattern of the fruit bat Rousettus aegyptiacus. S. Afr J Med Sci 41: 271–278Google Scholar
  92. Wickler S, Hoyt D and Breukelen FV (1991) Disuse atrophy in the hibernating golden mantled ground squirrel, Spermophilus lateralis. Am J Physiol 261: R1214–R1217Google Scholar
  93. Widmaier EP, Gornstein ER, Hennessey JL, Bloss JM, Greenberg JA and Kunz TH (1996) High plasma cholesterol, but low triglycerides and plaque-free arteries, in Mexican free-tailed bats. Am J Physiol 271(Regulatory Integrative Comp Physiol 40): R1101–R1106Google Scholar
  94. Wilkinson GS and Chapman A (1991) Length and sequence variation in evening bat D-loop mtDNA. Genetics 128: 607–617Google Scholar
  95. Wilkinson GS, Mayer F, Kerth G and Petri B (1997) Evolution of repeated sequence arrays in the D-loop region of bat mitochondrial DNA. Genetics 146: 1035–1048Google Scholar
  96. Wilkinson GS and South JM (2002) Life history, ecology and longevity in bats. Aging Cell 1: 124–131Google Scholar
  97. Williams GC (1957) Pleiotropy, natural selection and the evolution of senescence. Evolution 11: 398–411Google Scholar
  98. Wilson, DE (1988) Maintaining bats for captive studies. In: Kunz TH (ed) Ecological and Behavioral Methods for the Study of Bats, pp 247–263Google Scholar
  99. Yacoe ME (1983) Protein metabolism in the pectoralis muscle and liver of hibernating bats, Eptesicus fuscus. J Comp Physiol 152: 137–144)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anja K. Brunet-Rossinni
    • 1
  • Steven N. Austad
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of IdahoMoscowUSA

Personalised recommendations