Energy budgets of lactating and non-reproductive Brown Long-Eared Bats (Plecotus auritus) suggest females use compensation in lactation



1. The energy budgets of lactating and non-reproductive female Brown Long-Eared Bats fed primarily on noctuid moths (≈ 27·2 kJ g–1) were constructed and compared in flight enclosures in captivity.

2. The average dry food consumption of non-reproductive individuals was 1·8 g bat–1 day–1 (gross energy intake = 48 kJ day–1). The average food consumption throughout days 10–35 of lactation was 2·0 g bat–1 day–1 (gross energy intake = 53 kJ day–1). Lactating females obtained six times more energy from increased food consumption than from mobilization of fat stores, compared with non-reproductive bats.

3. Milk export, calculated using the difference in water turnover between lactating and non-reproductive bats (measured using 2H turnover) averaged 2·6 ml bat–1 day–1 (22·9 kJ day–1). This was similar to the average milk intake of sucklings estimated from 3H turnover (22·9 kJ day–1).

4. Energy available for respiration from food and mobilization of fat stores was 18·2 kJ day–1 for lactating females compared with 36·8 kJ day–1 for non-reproductive females. In comparison, respiratory daily energy expenditure (DEE) of lactating and non-reproductive bats, measured by doubly labelled water (DLW), was 21·3 kJ day–1 and 23·6 kJ day–1, respectively. Hence, there was a discrepancy between respiratory DEE (measured by DLW) and net available energy estimates for non-reproductive bats but not for lactating bats.

5. Respiratory DEE for lactating bats was equal to or less than that of non-reproductive females, suggesting they used compensatory mechanisms in their energy budgets in lactation.