Influence of climate and reproductive timing on demography of little brown myotis Myotis lucifugus


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1. Estimating variation in demographic rates, such as survival and fecundity, is important for testing life-history theory and identifying conservation and management goals.

2. We used 16 years (1993–2008) of mark–recapture data to estimate age-specific survival and breeding probabilities of the little brown myotis Myotis lucifugus LeConte in southern New Hampshire, USA. Using Kendall & Nichols' (1995) full-likelihood approach of the robust design to account for temporary emigration, we tested whether survival and breeding propensity is influenced by regional weather patterns and timing of reproduction.

3. Our results demonstrate that adult female survival of M. lucifugus ranged from 0·63 (95% CL = 0·56, 0·68) to 0·90 (95% CL = 0·77, 0·94), and was highest in wet years with high cumulative summer precipitation. First-year survival [range: 0·23 (95% CL = 0·14, 0·35) to 0·46 (95% CL = 0·34, 0·57)] was considerably lower than adult survival and depended on pup date of birth, such that young born earlier in the summer (c. late May) had a significantly higher probability of surviving their first year than young born later in the summer (c. mid-July). Similarly, the probability of young females returning to the maternity colony to breed in the summer following their birth year was higher for individuals born earlier in the summer [range: 0·23 (95% CL = 0·08, 0·50) to 0·53 (95% CL = 0·30, 0·75)].

4. The positive influence of early parturition on 1st-year survival and breeding propensity demonstrates significant fitness benefits to reproductive timing in this temperate insectivorous bat.

5. Climatic factors can have important consequences for population dynamics of temperate bats, which may be negatively affected by summer drying patterns associated with global climate change.

6. Understanding long-term demographic trends will be important in the face of a novel disease phenomenon (White-Nose Syndrome) that is associated with massive mortalities in hibernating bat species, including M. lucifugus, in the northeastern United States.