Applied Zoology and Nature Conservation
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Relative importance of plastic and genetic responses to weather conditions in long-lived bats
Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Ongoing studies are working on estimating the consequences of environmental changes induced by climate change, but little is known about how changing environments affect individual fitness in free-ranging populations of long-lived mammals. In this context, bats are an important and highly interesting study organism, as they are distributed globally, of high conservation concern, long-lived and show various behavioural and physiological responses to climate parameters. Behaviours such as roost switching, social thermoregulation, and torpor may allow bats to deal with changing weather patterns, as expected by climate change.
Within the framework of the Research Training Group “RESPONSE”, I work within the A3 project. Here, my research focuses on bats and how they cope with changing weather conditions. In particular, I aim to assess the extent to which observed fitness-relevant responses are caused by genetic factors or phenotypic plasticity. To investigate this, I will use existing field and genetic data of up to 25 years in combination with new experimental data to quantify the influence of weather conditions on the behaviour and morphology of the Bechstein’s bat (M. bechsteinii) and other bat species. To assess heritability of body size and other potential fitness relevant traits (e.g. departure timing from the hibernaculum or age at first reproduction) I will use the “Animal Model” as a statistical treatment of choice for free-ranging populations. I will also perform experimental manipulations of the micro-climate of roosts (bat boxes) in Würzburg, Bavaria. Here, my aim is to test for the influence of roosting temperatures on body size of the juveniles that grow up in these roosts as well as changes in their phenology (birth date).
GRK 2010 Biological RESPONSEs to Novel and Changing Envrironments