Date of Award

8-2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Major Professor

Gary F. McCracken

Committee Members

James Fordyce, Susan Reichert, Scott Stewart

Abstract

Animal migrations involve significant movement of biomass across landscapes and are likely to have cascading effects on animal and plant communities. However, most studies on migration address the behavior and ecology of single taxa, such as birds or insects. Few consider more than one trophic level or predator/prey interaction within the overall migration context. I studied the migration ecology of noctuid moths and of Brazilian free-tailed bats in Texas. Noctuid moth migrations during the 2010-2012 fall seasons were driven significantly by weather at the regional and local levels. Bats also responded to the same weather patterns, with changes in body mass and bat flight activity linked to increased northerly wind after cold front passage. Many of the behavioral and physiological changes in bats were more likely due to their own migratory cycles, rather than in direct response to the local availability of migratory moths in the study area. Noctuid moths are destructive agricultural pests affecting crops on a continental scale, and the bats offer significant pest control ecosystem services. Since the system is driven by weather, understanding the system is important because it is likely to be affected by climate change.

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