Continental-scale, seasonal movements of a heterothermic migratory tree bat

Authors

  • Paul M. Cryan,

    1. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Fort Collins Science Center, 2150 Centre Ave., Bldg. C, Fort Collins, Colorado 80526 USA
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    • Corresponding Editor: T. R. Simons.

  • Craig A. Stricker,

    1. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Fort Collins Science Center, 2150 Centre Ave., Bldg. C, Fort Collins, Colorado 80526 USA
    2. USGS Stable Isotope and Gas Chemistry Laboratory, Denver, Colorado 80225 USA
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  • Michael B. Wunder

    1. Department of Integrative Biology, University of Colorado, Denver, Colorado 80204 USA
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E-mail: cryanp@usgs.gov

Abstract

Long-distance migration evolved independently in bats and unique migration behaviors are likely, but because of their cryptic lifestyles, many details remain unknown. North American hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereus cinereus) roost in trees year-round and probably migrate farther than any other bats, yet we still lack basic information about their migration patterns and wintering locations or strategies. This information is needed to better understand unprecedented fatality of hoary bats at wind turbines during autumn migration and to determine whether the species could be susceptible to an emerging disease affecting hibernating bats. Our aim was to infer probable seasonal movements of individual hoary bats to better understand their migration and seasonal distribution in North America. We analyzed the stable isotope values of non-exchangeable hydrogen in the keratin of bat hair and combined isotopic results with prior distributional information to derive relative probability density surfaces for the geographic origins of individuals. We then mapped probable directions and distances of seasonal movement. Results indicate that hoary bats summer across broad areas. In addition to assumed latitudinal migration, we uncovered evidence of longitudinal movement by hoary bats from inland summering grounds to coastal regions during autumn and winter. Coastal regions with nonfreezing temperatures may be important wintering areas for hoary bats. Hoary bats migrating through any particular area, such as a wind turbine facility in autumn, are likely to have originated from a broad expanse of summering grounds from which they have traveled in no recognizable order. Better characterizing migration patterns and wintering behaviors of hoary bats sheds light on the evolution of migration and provides context for conserving these migrants.

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