Melissa Walker


PhD Candidate

Thesis title

The physiological and environmental drivers of grey-headed flying-fox movements

Project description

EnergyMelissa Walker is fundamental to life. Intrinsic factors, such as the maintenance of a positive energy balance, govern how energy is regulated by an individual. Extrinsic factors, such as air temperature and food availability, govern the amount of energy available in the environment. In order to defend the high body temperature required for optimal levels of function, mammals must strategically regulate their energy expenditure, and do so in response to changes in the environment. This project investigates the intrinsic and extrinsic factors underpinning energetics of grey-headed flying-foxes, Pteropus poliocephalus (Fig. 1).

grey-headed flying-fox

Figure 1. A grey-headed flying-fox, Pteropus poliocephalus.

Tree roosting flying-foxes are highly exposed to a range of environmental conditions, and employ a particular sequence of behavioural and physiological responses to defend body temperature. Strategic changes to these responses may offer important energetic savings. For example, a reduction in activity and body temperature while resting (i.e. torpor) is an important mechanism employed by smaller bats, and many other mammals, to reduce their daily energy requirements (e.g. when food is unavailable or foraging costs are high).

Recent advances in body temperature monitoring and body acceleration sensing allow the spatial movements of flying-foxes to be annotated with energy costs. Furthermore, these technological advance allow flying-foxes to be monitored under natural conditions. By monitoring intrinsic and extrinsic factors governing flying-fox energetics, we can begin to accurately describe flying-fox ecology under natural conditions, and predict how energetics affect the behaviour and movements of flying-foxes over space and time.


Dr. Christopher Turbill, Dr. Justin Welbergen and Dr. Jessica Meade


This research is supported by an ARC Discovery Project awarded to Dr Justin Welbergen, Dr Christopher Turbill and Dr David Westcott to develop a mechanistic understanding of the movement ecology of flying foxes.


Walker MJ, Dorrestein A, Camacho JJ, Meckler LA, Silas KA, Hiller T, Haelewaters D, (2018) 'A tripartite survey of hyperparasitic fungi associated with ectoparasitic flies on bats (Mammalia: Chiroptera) in a neotropical cloud forest in Panama', Parasite, vol.25, p 19