Morphological correlates of echolocation frequency in the endemic Cape horseshoe bat, Rhinolophus capensis (Chiroptera: Rhinolophidae)
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We investigated intraspecific variation in echolocation calls of the Cape horseshoe bat, Rhinolophus capensis, by comparing echolocation and associated morphological parameters among individuals from three populations of this species. The populations were situated in the center and at the western and eastern limits of the distribution of R. capensis. The latter two populations were situated in ecotones between vegetation biomes. Ecotone populations deviated slightly from the allometric relationship between body size and peak frequency for the genus, and there was no relationship between these variables within R. capensis. Nasal chamber length was the best predictor of peak frequency but not correlated with body size. The evolution of echolocation thus appears to have been uncoupled from body size in R. capensis. Furthermore, females used higher frequencies than males, which imply a potential social role for peak frequency. The differences in peak frequency may have originated from random founder effects and then compounded by genetic drift and/or natural selection. The latter may have acted directly on peak frequency altering skull parameters involved in echolocation independently of body size, resulting in the evolution of local acoustic signatures.