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Wing morphology of Neotropical bats: a quantitative and qualitative analysis with implications for habitat use

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Wing morphology has a direct influence on the flight manoeuvrability, agility, and speed of bats. Studies addressing the relationship between bat wing morphology and ecology are biased towards Old World species and few of them have addressed the ecologically rich Amazonian bat fauna. We quantitatively and qualitatively characterized the wing shape of 51 bat species found in the Brazilian Amazonia by measuring their aspect ratio (AR) and relative wing load (RWL). We found a high variability in wing shape: AR varied from 5.0862 (pygmy round-eared bat, Lophostoma brasiliense (Peters, 1866)) to 8.2774 (brown dog-faced bat, Molossus (Cynomops) paranus (Thomas, 1901)), while RWL varied from 20.0459 (spectral bat, Vampyrum spectrum (L., 1758)) to 55.3931 (Pallas’s mastiff, Molossus molossus (Pallas, 1766)). Insectivores had the largest variability, whereas frugivores and nectarivores had intermediate values with lower variability, indicating a higher flexibility in the use of space and resources. Our predictions on flight patterns are supported by capture and behavioural data from the literature, both of which point to the use of wing shape as a good proxy for habitat use and food partitioning among species. Our data are useful for integrative studies in ecology, physiology, behaviour, and evolution, and can contribute to a better understanding of the ecological interactions of Neotropical bat species.

Keywords: Amazonia; Amazonie; Chiroptera; bats; chauves-souris; chiroptères; flight pattern; forme des ailes; guildes; guilds; habitude de vol; use of resources; utilisation des ressources; wing shape

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2014

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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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