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PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e28584. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0028584. Epub 2011 Dec 2.

All you can eat: high performance capacity and plasticity in the common big-eared bat, Micronycteris microtis (Chiroptera: Phyllostomidae).

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  • 1Center for Society and Genetics and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States of America.


Ecological specialization and resource partitioning are expected to be particularly high in the species-rich communities of tropical vertebrates, yet many species have broader ecological niches than expected. In Neotropical ecosystems, Neotropical leaf-nosed bats (Phyllostomidae) are one of the most ecologically and functionally diverse vertebrate clades. Resource partitioning in phyllostomids might be achieved through differences in the ability to find and process food. We selected Micronycteris microtis, a very small (5-7 g) animalivorous phyllostomid, to explore whether broad resource use is associated with specific morphological, behavioral and performance traits within the phyllostomid radiation. We documented processing of natural prey and measured bite force in free-ranging M. microtis and other sympatric phyllostomids. We found that M. microtis had a remarkably broad diet for prey size and hardness. For the first time, we also report the consumption of vertebrates (lizards), which makes M. microtis the smallest carnivorous bat reported to date. Compared to other phyllostomids, M. microtis had the highest bite force for its size and cranial shape and high performance plasticity. Bite force and cranial shape appear to have evolved rapidly in the M. microtis lineage. High performance capacity and high efficiency in finding motionless prey might be key traits that allow M. microtis, and perhaps other species, to successfully co-exist with other gleaning bats.

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