Effects of body mass and reproduction on the basal metabolic rate of brown long-eared bats (Plecotus auritus)

J A McLean, J R Speakman

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We measured basal metabolic rate (BMR) of nonreproductive and of breeding (pregnant and lactating) female brown long-eared bats (Plecotus auritus) to investigate the effects of intra- and interindividual variation in body mass and of reproduction on metabolism. The BMR of six nonreproductive females was measured between five and seven times at approximately 2-wk intervals over a period of 2.5 mo. There was a highly significant effect (P < 0.001) of body mass on BMR of these nonreproductive females. The pooled within-individual scaling exponent (1.88) significantly exceeded the established mammalian interspecific exponent (0.75). In addition, we made single observations on 14 nonreproductive females to establish the effects of differences in mass between individuals. The mean BMR across all 14 individuals was 82 mW (+/-24 SD). There was a significant positive relationship between BMR and body mass across these individuals (r(2) = 0.39), with a between-individual scaling exponent of 0.75. Inter- and intraindividual effects of mass on BMR were combined in a regression analysis that included mean body mass and deviation from mean mass on any given day as predictors. This regression model explained 55% of the variation in BMR. We made longitudinal measurements of BMR throughout reproduction and compared these with the predicted BMR of nonreproductive bats of the same body mass. Reproductive females exhibited temporal flexibility in BMR. BMR during pregnancy increased on a whole-animal basis but was significantly lower (by, on average, 15%) than BMR predicted for nonreproductive females of the same mass. Over a period of 1-75 d following birth, whole-animal BMR was greater than that during pregnancy, even though body mass declined after parturition. Hence, postbirth BMR was greater than the level predicted for nonreproductive females of the same mass. This study indicates that the scaling of BMR with body mass differs significantly within and between individuals and that there is a reduction of BMR in pregnancy and an elevation of BMR during lactation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-121
Number of pages10
JournalPhysiological and Biochemical Zoology
Publication statusPublished - 2000


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