Send to

Choose Destination
J Evol Biol. 2014 Dec;27(12):2829-40. doi: 10.1111/jeb.12548. Epub 2014 Dec 6.

The influence of feeding on the evolution of sensory signals: a comparative test of an evolutionary trade-off between masticatory and sensory functions of skulls in southern African horseshoe bats (Rhinolophidae).

Author information

Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa.


The skulls of animals have to perform many functions. Optimization for one function may mean another function is less optimized, resulting in evolutionary trade-offs. Here, we investigate whether a trade-off exists between the masticatory and sensory functions of animal skulls using echolocating bats as model species. Several species of rhinolophid bats deviate from the allometric relationship between body size and echolocation frequency. Such deviation may be the result of selection for increased bite force, resulting in a decrease in snout length which could in turn lead to higher echolocation frequencies. If so, there should be a positive relationship between bite force and echolocation frequency. We investigated this relationship in several species of southern African rhinolophids using phylogenetically informed analyses of the allometry of their bite force and echolocation frequency and of the three-dimensional shape of their skulls. As predicted, echolocation frequency was positively correlated with bite force, suggesting that its evolution is influenced by a trade-off between the masticatory and sensory functions of the skull. In support of this, variation in skull shape was explained by both echolocation frequency (80%) and bite force (20%). Furthermore, it appears that selection has acted on the nasal capsules, which have a frequency-specific impedance matching function during vocalization. There was a negative correlation between echolocation frequency and capsule volume across species. Optimization of the masticatory function of the skull may have been achieved through changes in the shape of the mandible and associated musculature, elements not considered in this study.


3D geometric morphometrics; Chiroptera; bite force; diet; evolution; phylogenetic generalized least squares; phylogenetically informed regression; resting frequency; skull shape

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center