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northern bat

Myotis septentrionalis

What do they look like?

Northern bats are medium sized bats best recognized by their long rounded ears, which extend beyond the tip of the nose when laid forward. Their fur is a dull yellow/brown. Their bellies are pale gray and the shoulders have dull, brown spots. Their heads are narrow with relatively long noses. The total body length of northern bats is 78 mm. Their tails measure 26 mm, their feet measure 9 mm, their ears measure 17 to 19 mm, and their forearms measure 35 mm. Northern bats have a wingspan ranging between 23 and 26 cm. These bats weigh 6 to 9 grams. The females of this species are generally larger and heavier than the males.

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range mass
    6 to 9 g
    0.21 to 0.32 oz
  • Average length
    78 mm
    3.07 in
  • Range wingspan
    23 to 26 cm
    9.06 to 10.24 in

Where do they live?

Northern bats are distributed across forested regions of the eastern United States. They range across southern Canada and up to Newfoundland. They extend down into Florida, through the south central states and through the Dakotas, into eastern British Columbia.

What kind of habitat do they need?

Northern bats live in boreal forests. These bats roost in buildings, under loose bark, and in the cavities of trees. Caves and underground mines are their choice sites for hibernating.

  • These animals are found in the following types of habitat
  • temperate

How do they reproduce?

During mating, a male northern bat mounts a female from behind, occasionally grasping the female's neck with his teeth. Both male and female northern bats have many mates.

Mating occurs in autumn when groups of a few hundred are formed and pairs mate before going into hibernation.

The females store the males' sperm inside of them during hibernation; they do not become pregnant until they emerge in the spring. Pregnancy lasts 50 to 60 days, after which a single young is born. Young are born in late June or early July.

  • Breeding season
    These bats breed in autumn.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 1
  • Range gestation period
    50 to 60 days
  • Average weaning age
    30 days

Northern bats are born helpless and completely dependent on their mothers. Female northern bats nurse their young for about a month. Males do not help care for the young.

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female

How long do they live?

Northern bats have been known to live up to 18.5 years.

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    18.5 (high) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    18.5 years

How do they behave?

During the summer northern bats are commonly found in higher numbers around the northern areas of their range, as they rely upon the richly forested habitats in the north around this time.

Occasionally, these bats may be found roosting with other bat species, although they are much less social than some of their close relatives. Males and females roost separately; however, females with offspring may form small maternity colonies of less than 60 individuals.

In late summer or early autumn the bats gather and move to the places where they will hibernate, traveling up to 56 kilometers from their summer habitat. They generally hibernate alone although they sometimes form very small groups. During hibernation these bats prefer moist, still, narrow crevices where temperatures may be as low as 1.6 degrees Celsius. Hibernation may last for 8 to 9 months in the northern latitudes; length of hibernation varies among the various latitudes and environments. These bats often hibernate in the same places more than once.

How do they communicate with each other?

Nothern bats have good hearing and they often listen for sounds made by their insect prey. They also use echolocation to locate insects resting on leaves, tree trunks, or on buildings.

What do they eat?

Northern bats come out shortly after sunset to hunt. Hunting occurs over small ponds, forest clearings and forest edges at a height of 1 to 3 meters above the ground. While hunting, northern bats take occasional rests (night roosting), followed by a second peak of hunting just before dawn.

In general, these bats eat a variety of smaller night-flying insects, but they may sometimes pick resting prey off of flat surfaces as well.

Foods eaten include: caddisflies, moths, beetles, flies and leafhoppers.

  • Animal Foods
  • insects

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

No predators are known.

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

Northern bats play an important role in their ecosystem by eating large quantities of insects.

Do they cause problems?

As is the case with most bats, many humans consider northern bats to be pests. Bats often work their way into the attics of houses and may carry a threat of rabies, although this threat is often exaggerated.

  • Ways that these animals might be a problem for humans
  • household pest

How do they interact with us?

Northern bats help control populations of potentionally harmful insects.

  • Ways that people benefit from these animals:
  • controls pest population

Are they endangered?

Timber harvesting may interfere with these bats' ability to use trees for nursery colonies and day roosts. It also may negatively affect their foraging habits in forested areas. Use of chemical and biological insecticides is another source of concern affecting their food supply. A less important, yet very real threat to northern bats is the disturbance they face in the caves (where recreational "caving" is popular) or mines (which are often closed after being abandoned) where they hibernate. A solution to the problem of disturbance at caves and mines is to put up gates that permit the bats to pass while keeping out humans.

Temperate North American bats are now threatened by a fungal disease called “white-nose syndrome.” This disease has devastated eastern North American bat populations at hibernation sites since 2007. The fungus, Geomyces destructans, grows best in cold, humid conditions that are typical of many bat hibernacula. The fungus grows on, and in some cases invades, the bodies of hibernating bats and seems to result in disturbance from hibernation, causing a debilitating loss of important metabolic resources and mass deaths. Mortality rates at some hibernation sites have been as high as 90%. (Cryan, 2010; National Park Service, Wildlife Health Center, 2010)

Some more information...

Contributors

Allison Poor (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Jessica Ollendorff (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ondrej Podlaha (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

echolocation

The process by which an animal locates itself with respect to other animals and objects by emitting sound waves and sensing the pattern of the reflected sound waves.

endothermic

animals that generate their own body heat through metabolic processes.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

hibernation

the state that some animals enter during winter in which bodily functions slow down, reducing their energy requirements so that they can live through a season with little food.

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

migratory

makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

polygynandrous

the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

References

Altenbach, J. S., B., Harvey, M. J.. 2001. "Myotis Septentrionalis (Northern Long Eared Bat)" (On-line). Accessed 10/06/01 at http://talpa.unm.edu/batcall/accounts/accountsbase/myse.html.

Altringham, John D., 1996. Bats Biology and Behaviour. New York: Oxford University Press.

Bat Conservation International, Inc, 2001. "Bat Species: U.S. Bats: Myotis Septentrionalis" (On-line). Accessed 10/06/2001 at http://batcon.org/discover/species/mysept.html.

Bogan, M. A., N., Valdez, E. W.. December 14, 2000. "Texas Parks & Wildlife: Nature" (On-line). Accessed 10/06/01 at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/nature/wild/mammals/bats/species/north_,myotis/htm.

Caceres, C., R. Barclay. May 12, 2000. Myotis septentrionalis. Mammalian Species, No. 634: pp. 1-4.

Cryan, P. 2010. "White-nose syndrome threatens the survival of hibernating bats in North America" (On-line). U.S. Geological Survey, Fort Collins Science Center. Accessed September 16, 2010 at http://www.fort.usgs.gov/WNS/.

National Park Service, Wildlife Health Center, 2010. "White-nose syndrome" (On-line). National Park Service, Wildlife Health. Accessed September 16, 2010 at http://www.nature.nps.gov/biology/wildlifehealth/White_Nose_Syndrome.cfm.

Ruff, Sue., W. 1999. The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Texas Technical University, 1997. "The Mammals of Texas - Online Edition: Northern Myotis" (On-line). Accessed 10/05/01 at http://www.nsrl.ttu.edu/tmot1/myotsept.htm.

Thomas, Donald W., 1993. "Bats, Mines, and Politics. BATS. Vol 11, No 2: 10-11" (On-line). Accessed 10/06/01 at http://www.batcon.org/batsmag/v11n2-3.html.

Trouessart, 1999. "Living Landscapes: Endangered Species and Spaces" (On-line). Accessed 10/05/2001 at http://www.livinglandscapes.org/endangered/Mammals/northern1.htm.

 
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Ollendorff, J. 2002. "Myotis septentrionalis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 20, 2014 at http://www.biokids.umich.edu/accounts/Myotis_septentrionalis/

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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