Survival tactics within thermally-challenging roosts: heat tolerance and cold sensitivity in the Angolan free-tailed bat, Mops condylurus

  • Gary N. Bronner
  • Shane K. Maloney
  • Rochelle Buffenstein


We studied roost microclimates, thermal preferences and temperature-related variation in body temperatures and flight abilities of M. condylurus from three roosts in man-made structures in South Africa. Roosts were characterized by marked spatio-temporal variability in ambient temperature and relative humidity on a daily and seasonal basis. Microclimates were thermally challenging, being very hot (>40°C) for several hours daily in summer and autumn, and cold (<10°C) for much of the night in winter Thermal preference tests revealed that the bats actively selected temperature zones (35°- 42°C) in which basal metabolic rate could be maintained, and above the minimum necessary for sustained flight. This presumably allowed them to minimize energy costs of thermoregulation without compromising reproductive activity or their ability to avoid predators. Bats displayed pronounced heat tolerance and hyperthermia in response to prolonged experimental exposure to high temperatures (40°C). They also exhibited cold-sensitivity, characterized by hypothermia and entry into torpor, when exposed to ambient temperatures below the thermal neutral zone. This response to low ambient temperatures would conserve energy in cold periods when the high energetic costs of foraging may not be met owing to reduced insect availability. We hypothesize that this broad roosting tolerance has energetic, ecological and evolutionary benefits that outweigh attendant disadvantages, which are largely compensated for by an unusual physiology.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2224-073X
print ISSN: 1562-7020