Life history, ecology and longevity in bats

Aging Cell. 2002 Dec;1(2):124-31. doi: 10.1046/j.1474-9728.2002.00020.x.


The evolutionary theory of aging predicts that life span should decrease in response to the amount of mortality caused by extrinsic sources. Using this prediction, we selected six life history and ecological factors to use in a comparative analysis of longevity among 64 bat species. On average, the maximum recorded life span of a bat is 3.5 times greater than a non-flying placental mammal of similar size. Records of individuals surviving more than 30 years in the wild now exist for five species. Univariate and multivariate analyses of species data, as well as of phylogenetically independent contrasts obtained using a supertree of Chiroptera, reveal that bat life span significantly increases with hibernation, body mass and occasional cave use, but decreases with reproductive rate and is not influenced by diet, colony size or the source of the record. These results are largely consistent with extrinsic mortality risk acting as a determinant of bat longevity. Nevertheless, the strong association between life span and both reproductive rate and hibernation also suggests that bat longevity is strongly influenced by seasonal allocation of non-renewable resources to reproduction. We speculate that hibernation may provide a natural example of caloric restriction, which is known to increase longevity in other mammals.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Birth Rate*
  • Body Constitution / physiology
  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Chiroptera / metabolism*
  • Ecology
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Hibernation / physiology*
  • Longevity / physiology*
  • Nesting Behavior / physiology
  • Phylogeny
  • Reproduction / physiology*