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The role of frugivory in the diversification of bats in the Neotropics

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Aim  Ecological interactions are among the most important biotic factors influencing the processes of speciation and extinction. Our aim was to test whether diversification rates of New World Noctilionoidea bats are associated with specialization for frugivory, and how this pattern differs between the mainland and the West Indies.

Location  The New World.

Methods  We reconstructed a time‐calibrated molecular phylogenetic hypothesis for the New World genera of the superfamily Noctilionoidea. We compiled data on diet, morphology, geographical distribution and number of ecoregions in which each genus occurs. Then, using the phylogenetic tree constructed, we tested whether diversification was driven by diet (animalivorous and sanguinivorous versus nectarivorous and frugivorous) and specialization for frugivory. Afterwards, we conducted phylogenetic comparative analyses to identify correlates of species richness and net diversification rates.

Results  The diversification rate was higher in mutualistic than in antagonistic clades in mainland and Antillean biogeographical scenarios, but only strictly frugivorous clades showed a markedly higher diversification rate than the rest of the genera. Geographical range and number of ecoregions were positively associated with species richness and diversification rate in continental and insular lineages. Lower body mass, lower forearm length and specialization for frugivory were significantly positively correlated with higher diversification rates in continental lineages, whereas these parameters were negatively correlated in Antillean lineages.

Main conclusions  The direction of the relationship of intrinsic factors (specialization for frugivory and body size) with diversification of noctilionoid bats depends on the biogeographical context, whereas the direction of the relationship of extrinsic factors (geographical range and number of ecoregions) with diversification is consistent in both mainland and the West Indian lineages.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Departamento de Biología Vegetal, Universidad de Vigo, Campus Lagoas-Marcosende, 36200-Vigo, Spain

Publication date: 2012-11-01

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