Document Type



Biology (CMC), WM Keck Science (CMC), Biology (Pitzer), WM Keck Science (Pitzer), Biology (Scripps), WM Keck Science (Scripps), WM Keck Science

Publication Date



The microclimatic effect of bats roosting in bell holes (blind vertical cylindrical cavities in cave roofs) in Runaway Bay Caves, Jamaica, was measured and the potential impact of their metabolism on dissolution modelled. Rock temperature measurements showed that bell holes with bats get significantly hotter than those without bats during bat roosting periods (by an average of 1.1 °C). The relationship is clearest for bell holes with more than about 300 g aggregate bat body mass and for bell holes that are moderately wide and deep, of W:D ratio between 0.8 and 1.6. Measurement of temperature decay after abandonment showed that rock temperature returns to normal each day during bat foraging periods. Metabolic activity from a typical population of 400 g bat (10 individuals) yields 41 g of CO2, 417.6 kJ of heat, and 35.6 g of H2O in each 18 hour roost period, and could produce a water film of ~ 0.44 mm, that is saturated with CO2 at ~ 5%. The resultant rock dissolution is estimated at ~ 0.005 cm3 CaCO3 per day. The metabolic heat ensures that the focus of dissolution remains vertical regardless of geological controls. A typical bell hole 1 m deep may be formed in some 50,000 years by this mechanism alone. Addition of other erosional mechanisms, such as direct bacterial bio-erosion, or the formation of exfoliative organo-rock complexes, would accelerate the rate of formation. The hypothesis is developed that bell holes are initiated and formed by bat-mediated condensation corrosion and are governed by geographic distribution of clustering bats and their roosting behaviour.

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