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Brain Behav Evol. 2006;67(3):165-76. Epub 2006 Jan 13.

Behavioral flexibility positively correlated with relative brain volume in predatory bats.

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Department of Zoology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.


We investigated the potential relationships between foraging strategies and relative brain and brain region volumes in predatory (animal-eating) echolocating bats. The species we considered represent the ancestral state for the order and approximately 70% of living bat species. The two dominant foraging strategies used by echolocating predatory bats are substrate-gleaning (taking prey from surfaces) and aerial hawking (taking airborne prey). We used species-specific behavioral, morphological, and ecological data to classify each of 59 predatory species as one of the following: (1) ground gleaning, (2) behaviorally flexible (i.e., known to both glean and hawk prey), (3) clutter tolerant aerial hawking, or (4) open-space aerial hawking. In analyses using both species level data and phylogenetically independent contrasts, relative brain size was larger in behaviorally flexible species. Further, relative neocortex volume was significantly reduced in bats that aerially hawk prey primarily in open spaces. Conversely, our foraging behavior index did not account for variability in hippocampus and inferior colliculus volume and we discuss these results in the context of past research.

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