Skip to main content


Log in

Dental Variation in Megabats (Chiroptera: Pteropodidae): Tooth Metrics Correlate with Body Size and Tooth Proportions Reflect Phylogeny

  • Original Paper
  • Published:
Journal of Mammalian Evolution Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Variation in the dentition yields insight into the evolutionary history of Mammalia. However, to date, there has been limited research on the dental variation in Pteropodidae, a family of bats found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Oceania. Most species are large, diurnal, non-echolocating, and eat fruit or nectar. Pteropodids are of significant concern in conservation due to rapidly declining populations resulting from habitat loss, climate change, and their impacts on agriculture and disease. We collected dental metrics from the mandibular postcanine teeth of 101 pteropodid specimens spanning six species within the family to test three hypotheses: H1) dental metrics are significantly different across pteropodid species; H2) variation in pteropodid dental metrics is associated with variation in body size; and H3) variation in pteropodid dental proportions is associated with phylogenetic relatedness. We find that dental linear metrics vary significantly across pteropodids and are significantly associated with body size. In contrast, dental proportions of pteropodids reflect phylogenetic relationships. We propose that the combination of approaches for quantifying postcanine dental variation can elucidate and refine our understanding of the various selective forces that shaped the Pteropodidae radiation.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6

Similar content being viewed by others


Download references


We would like to thank C. Conroy, E. Lacey, and M. Nachman at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (University of California, Berkeley) for their assistance accessing collections. We also thank L. Avila, M. Brasil, J. Carlson, R. Jabbour, P. Kloess, and C. Taylor for their greatly appreciated insights and support. We would like to express our gratitude to two anonymous reviewers and Editor-in-Chief John R. Wible for their thoughtful comments and suggestions that greatly improved this manuscript. M.E.Z. wrote the manuscript, ran the analyses, and helped collect the data. T.A.M. ran the phylogenetic analyses and contributed to writing the manuscript. R.R.D. and S.R. helped collect the data. L.J.H. directed the larger project in which this study was done and edited the manuscript. All authors contributed to the intellectual context and interpretation.

Data Availability Statement

All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this published article and its supplementary information files.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Madeleine E. Zuercher.

Electronic supplementary material


(XLSX 12 kb)


(XLSX 22 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Zuercher, M.E., Monson, T.A., Dvoretzky, R.R. et al. Dental Variation in Megabats (Chiroptera: Pteropodidae): Tooth Metrics Correlate with Body Size and Tooth Proportions Reflect Phylogeny. J Mammal Evol 28, 543–558 (2021).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: