Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) are one of the most widely distributed bat species in the Americas, often engaging in rapid, long-distance dispersals. Here, we document that, since ca. 2007, these bats have expanded their range into western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, and Virginia. Reports from wildlife control professionals, wildlife rehabilitators, regional submissions of bats for rabies testing, acoustic monitoring, and the presence of T. brasiliensis in buildings and bat houses indicate that these bats are now established in year-round colonies in areas previously thought outside their range limits. The geographic distributions of many organisms are currently shifting to higher latitudes in response to changing climate. We hypothesize that a coldtolerant thermal physiology that allows these largely tropical bats to enter extended torpor contributes to the ability of T. brasiliensis to establish populations in formerly cooler regions, and propose that their rapid northward expansion is facilitated by climate change and their tendency to explore new habitats and use a wide diversity of roost sites. Because of their abundance and use of man-made structures, we anticipate that the range expansion of T. brasiliensis will have implications for public health, ecosystem services, and bat conservation.
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Vol. 99 • No. 2