Flight performance and wing morphology in the bat Carollia perspicillata: biophysical models and energetics

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Studies on functional performance are important to understand the processes responsible for the evolution of diversity. Morphological trait variation within species influences the energetic cost of locomotion and impacts life history traits, with ecological and evolutionary consequences. This study examined wing morphology correlates of flight performance measured by energetic expenditure in the Seba's short-tailed bat, Carollia perspicillata. In the flight experiments, nature caught bats (59 females, 57 males) were allowed to fly for 3 min in a room. After each flight, thermographic images were taken to measure body temperature, and biophysical models were used to calculate sensible heat loss as a measure of energetic expenditure. Wing morphological traits were measured for each individual and associated with heat loss and power required to fly on performance surfaces. Wing morphological traits explained 7–10% of flight energetic cost, and morphologies with the best performance would save the energy equivalent to 9–30% of total daily requirements. The optimal performance areas within the C. perspicillata morphospace were consistent with predicted selection trends from the literature. A trade-off between demands for flight speed and maneuverability was observed. Wing loading and camber presented sexual dimorphism. These morphological differences are likely associated with more economical but less maneuverable flight in females, leading them to fly more often in open areas along the forest edge. Our findings demonstrate how small scale changes in wing morphology can affect life history strategies and fitness.




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Integrative Zoology.

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