Does calcium constrain reproductive activity in insectivorous bats? Some empirical evidence for Schreibers’ long-fingered bat (Miniopterus schreibersii)
Insects are a poor source of dietary calcium and since they are seasonally abundant, it has been suggested that calcium availability may play a significant role in controlling the timing of reproduction in insectivorous bats. To assess the possible role of dietary calcium, we have measured bone calcium concentrations in female and male long-fingered bats (Miniopterus schreibersii) through a full reproductive cycle. The results indicate that winter was not a period of calcium stress and, therefore, that seasonal changes in insect abundance and dietary calcium availability are not a satisfactory explanation for the occurrence of delayed implantation in the long-fingered bat. Bone calcium concentrations of females did not differ significantly throughout pregnancy, indicating that the insects available in winter and early summer were sufficient to meet the calcium demands of pregnancy. Lactating females had the lowest bone calcium concentrations of all specimens, supporting the suggestion that lactation is indeed a period of severe calcium stress in aerial insectivores. We conclude that parturition is probably timed so that lactation coincides with the period of maximal insect abundance and corresponding dietary calcium availability.