Two bat families, the leaf-nosed (Phyllostomidae) and fruit bats (Pteropodidae), have independently evolved the ability to consume plant resources. However, despite their similar ages, species richness and the strong selective pressures placed on the evolution of skull shape by plant-based foods, phyllostomids display more craniofacial diversity than pteropodids. In this study, we used morphometrics to investigate the distribution of palate variation and the evolution of palate diversity in these groups. We focused on the palate because evolutionary alterations in palate morphology are thought to underlie much feeding specialization in bats. We hypothesize that the distribution of palate variation differs in phyllostomids and pteropodids, and that the rate of palate evolution is higher in phyllostomids than pteropodids. The results suggest that the overall level of palate integration is higher in adult populations of pteropodids than phyllostomids but that the distribution of palate variation is otherwise generally conserved among phyllostomids and pteropodids. Furthermore, the results are consistent with these differences in palate integration likely having a developmental basis. The results also suggest that palate evolution has occurred significantly more rapidly in phyllostomids than pteropodids. These findings are consistent with a scenario in which the greater integration of the pteropodid palate has limited its evolvability.
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We thank Bill Stanley and the staff at the Field Museum of Natural History for their generous specimen loans. We also thank the Wildlife Section, Forestry Division, Ministry of Agriculture, Land, and Marine Resources (currently in the Ministry of Public Utilities and the Environment) of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago for the issuance of required collecting and export permits. We thank J. Marcot and B. Dumont for discussions that improved the manuscript, and L. Powers for preparation of bat skeletons. We thank A. Suarez for loan of the Canon used in this study. Finally, we thank Richard Behringer, Merla Hübler, Dan Urban and Simeon Williams for field assistance and collection of tissues in Trinidad. This work was supported by NIH NRSA F32 HD050042-01 and NSF IOS-1257873 to KS and NSF IOS-1255926 to CC.
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Sorensen, D.W., Butkus, C., Cooper, L.N. et al. Palate Variation and Evolution in New World Leaf-Nosed and Old World Fruit Bats (Order Chiroptera). Evol Biol 41, 595–605 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11692-014-9291-6