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Migration Ecophysiology: The Influence Of Heterothermy in Migratory Bats And Birds

Speaker: Dr. Liam McGuire, Associate Professor, University of Waterloo

Migration has long fascinated biologists and the public alike. There are many examples of small-bodied bats and birds that make amazing migratory journeys each year, leading to the inevitable question- How do they do it? As a graduate student studying bat migration, there was little literature that I could rely on and instead, I used migratory birds as a model.

I published a review titled “What can birds tell us about the migration physiology of bats?” in which I outlined the many aspects of migration that I hypothesized would be similar in the two groups, and a few key differences. As I continued to study bat migration, it quickly became clear that the ability to use daily torpor to reduce energetic costs during non-flight periods has a dramatic effect on nearly all aspects of bat migration, from body composition to stopover duration, landscape-scale movement patterns, and possibly even survival likelihood.

I continue to study bat migration, but I’ve started to turn the question around, asking “What can bats tell us about the migration physiology of birds?”. We are now studying heterothermic migration strategies in birds, which may be more common than previously appreciated