Journal of Mammalian Evolution

, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 57–78

Convergence in tent architecture and tent-making behavior among neotropical and paleotropical bats


  • Thomas H. Kunz
    • Department of BiologyBoston University
  • Marty S. Fujita
    • National Zoological ParkConservation and Research Center
  • Anne P. Brooke
    • Graduate Program in EthologyUniversity of Tennessee
  • Gary F. McCracken
    • Graduate Program in EthologyUniversity of Tennessee

DOI: 10.1007/BF01464350

Cite this article as:
Kunz, T.H., Fujita, M.S., Brooke, A.P. et al. J Mammal Evol (1994) 2: 57. doi:10.1007/BF01464350


Fifteen species of neotropical and three species of paleotropical bats are known either to roost in or to make tents in over 80 species of vascular plants. We summarize the current knowledge of bat-tent architecture, report two new styles of tents (conical and apical) from the Paleotropics, compare the similarity in tents constructed, or used, by neotropical and paleotropical bats, and consider possible functions of tents. Seven styles of tents are known from the Neotropics, three (conical, palmate umbrella, and apical tents) are known from both the Neo- and the Paleotropics, and one (stem tent) is unique to the Paleotropics. In the Neotropics tent-roosting and/or tent-making appears to be a behavior unique to the diverse microchiropteran family Phyllostomidae (subfamily Phyllostomatinae: tribe Stenodermatini), and in the Paleotropics two members of the megachiropteran family Pteropodidae and one member of the microchiropteran family Vespertilionidae are known to construct or roost in tents. Despite the variety of plant taxa used by bats in tent construction, there appears to be a limited number of different leaf forms that can be altered by bats and used as tents. We suggest that the similarity in tent architecture observed among the neotropical and paleotropical bats is a consequence of convergence in leaf morphology among forest understory plants. The congruence in tent-making/roosting behavior observed in members of the Stenodermatini and the Pteropodidae (genusCynopterus) suggests a phylogenetic influence on these behaviors. The similarity in tent-making and/or tent-roosting behavior and life-history traits (small, <70 g, mostly foliage-roosting frugivores) among these divergent neotropical and paleotropical taxa supports a convergence hypothesis in which members of these groups have become ecological equivalents. Although actual tent-making has been observed in only one bat species to date, we suggest that the principal selective force leading to the evolution of tent-making is a polygynous mating system whereby males construct tents to gain access to females. Tents in turn provide resources that offer protection from predators and inclement weather.

Key Words

batsconvergencetent architecturetent-making behavior
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1994