Evol Ecol Res 6: 1037-1050 (2004)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Ecology of an exceptional roost: energetic benefits

could explain why the bat Lophostoma silvicolum

roosts in active termite nests

Dina K.N. Dechmann,1,2* Elisabeth K.V. Kalko2,3 and Gerald Kerth1

1Zoologisches Institut, Universität Zürich-Irchel, Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057 Zürich, Switzerland, 2Experimental Ecology, University of Ulm, Albert-Einstein Allee 11, 89075 Ulm, Germany and 3Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, PO Box 2072, Balboa, Panama

Address all correspondence to Dina Dechmann, Zoologisches Institut, Universität Zürich-Irchel, Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057 Zürich, Switzerland.
e-mail: dechmann@zool.unizh.ch


The ability to create shelters that provide protection from the environment is widespread among animals. However, in spite of the central role roosts play in the life of bats (Chiroptera), only a few species have developed the ability to make their own refuges, one of them being the Neotropical Lophostoma silvicolum. This bat creates and inhabits cavities in active arboreal nests of the termite Nasutitermes corniger. We measured temperature in cavities inside active and dead termite nests, and in tree holes occupied by closely related bats, to determine whether energetic benefits compensate for the cost of excavating the hard nests. The inside temperatures of active termite nests were very stable and 2.1–2.8°C warmer than those of the other two potential roost types. The observed temperature difference is estimated to allow euthermic L. silvicolum to save about 5% of their daily energy expenditure when roosting in active termite nests instead of dead nests or tree holes. Suitable roosting conditions result from the presence of termites and are independent of nest architecture. Our results indicate that the benefits of higher temperatures may be one of the driving forces promoting the evolution of active roost making in bats.

Keywords: basal metabolic rate, Nasutitermes corniger, roost making, temperature, Tonatia silvicola.

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