Diet, phylogeny, and basal metabolic rate in phyllostomid bats
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Aside from the pervasive effects of body mass, much controversy exists as to what factors account for interspecific variation in basal metabolic rates (BMR) of mammals; however, both diet and phylogeny have been strongly implicated. We examined variation in BMR within the New World bat family Phyllostomidae, which shows the largest diversity of food habits among mammalian families, including frugivorous, nectarivorous, insectivorous, carnivorous and blood-eating species. For 27 species, diet was taken from the literature and BMR was either measured on animals captured in Brazil or extracted from the literature. Conventional (nonphylogenetic) analysis of covariance (ANCOVA), with body mass as the covariate, was first used to test the effects of diet on BMR. In this analysis, which assumes that all species evolved simultaneously from a single ancestor (i.e., a star phylogeny), diet exerted a strong effect on mass-in-dependent BMR: nectarivorous bats showed higher mass-independent BMR than other bats feeding on fruits, insects or blood. In phylogenetic ANCOVAs via Monte Carlo computer simulation, which assume that species are part of a branching hierarchical phylogeny, no statistically significant effect of diet on BMR was observed. Hence, results of the nonphylogenetic analysis were misleading because the critical values for testing the effect of diet were underestimated. However, in this sample of bats, diet is perfectly confounded with phylogeny, because the four dietary categories represent four separate subclades, which greatly reduces statistical power to detect a diet (= subclade) effect. But even if diet did appear to exert an influence on BMR in this sample of bats, it would not be logically possible to separate this effect from the possibility that the dietary categories differ for some other reason (i.e., another synapomorphy of one or more of the subclades). Examples such as this highlight the importance of considering phylogenetic relationships when designing new comparative studies, as well as when analyzing existing data sets. We also discuss some possible reasons why BMR may not coadapt with diet. © by Urban & Fischer Verlag.