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

M.M. Marinello, E. Bernard
Canadian journal of zoology 2014 v.92 no.2 pp. 141-147
Molossus, evolution, fauna, flight, frugivores, habitat preferences, insectivores, nectar feeding, prediction, qualitative analysis, tropics, Amazonia
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.