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Data from: Warm bodies, cool wings: regional heterothermy in flying bats

Cite this dataset

Rummel, Andrea; Swartz, Sharon; Marsh, Richard (2019). Data from: Warm bodies, cool wings: regional heterothermy in flying bats [Dataset]. Dryad.


Many endothermic animals experience variable limb temperatures, even as they tightly regulate core temperature. The limbs are often cooler than the core at rest, but because the large locomotor muscles of the limbs produce heat during exercise, they are thought to operate at or above core temperature during activity. Bats, small-bodied flying mammals with greatly elongated forelimbs, possess wings with large surfaces lacking any insulating fur. We hypothesized that during flight the relatively small muscles that move the elbow and wrist operate below core body temperature because of elevated heat loss. We measured muscle temperature continuously in the small fruit bat Carollia perspicillata before and during wind tunnel flights, and discretely in diverse bats at rest in Belize. We found that bats maintained high rectal temperatures, but that there was a steep proximal-to-distal gradient in wing muscle temperature. Forearm muscles were 4–6ºC cooler than rectal temperature at rest and ~12ºC cooler during flights at an air temperature of 22ºC. These findings invite further study into how bats and other endotherms maintain locomotor performance in variable environments, when some muscles may be operating at low temperatures that are expected to slow contractile properties.

Usage notes


National Science Foundation, Award: CMMI-1426338