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An association between ear and tail morphologies of bats and their foraging style

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Abstract:

Most studies relating bat morphology to flight ecology have concentrated on the wing membrane. Here, canonical variance analysis showed that the ear and tail morphologies of bats also strongly relate to foraging strategy, which in turn is correlated with flight style. Variations in tail membrane morphology are likely to be a trade-off between increases in the mechanical cost of flight and improvements in foraging and flight performance. Flying with large ears is also potentially energetically expensive, particularly at high flight speeds. Large ears, therefore, are only likely to be affordable for slow foraging gleaning bat species. Bats with faster foraging flight styles tend to have smaller ears, possibly to cut the overall drag produced and reduce the power required for flight. Variations in the size of ears and tail membranes appear to be driven primarily by foraging strategy and not by body size, because the scaling relationships found are either weak or not significant. Ear size in bats may be a result of a trade-off between acoustic and aerodynamic performance.

La plupart des études qui relient la morphologie des chauves-souris à leur écologie du vol se sont intéressées principalement à la membrane de l’aile. Notre analyse de variance canonique montre que les morphologies des oreille et des queues des chauves-souris est fortement reliée à la stratégie de recherche de nourriture, elle-même en corrélation avec le style de vol. Les variations dans la morphologie de la membrane caudale représentent vraisemblablement un compromis entre les accroissements des coûts mécaniques du vol et les améliorations de la performance de la recherche de nourriture et du vol. Le vol avec de grandes oreilles peut aussi être coûteux en énergie, particulièrement aux vitesses de vol élevées. Il est donc vraisemblable que seules les chauves-souris à vol lent qui recherchent leur nourriture par glanage peuvent se permettre de grandes oreilles. Les espèces dont le style de vol de recherche de nourriture est plus rapide possèdent des oreilles plus petites, probablement pour réduire la traînée totale produite et diminuer la puissance requise pour le vol. Les variations dans la taille des oreilles et des membranes caudales semblent s’expliquer principalement par la stratégie de recherche de nourriture et non par la taille corporelle, puisque les relations de cadrage trouvées sont ou bien faibles ou non significatives. La taille de l’oreille chez les chauves-souris peut être le résultat d’un compromis entre les performances acoustique et aérodynamique.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2011

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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