The tail plays a major role in the differing manoeuvrability of two sibling species of mouse-eared bats ( Myotis myotis and Myotis blythii)

Siemers, Björn M.; Schmieder, Daniela A.; Zsebők, Sándor
November 2014
Canadian Journal of Zoology;2014, Vol. 92 Issue 11, p965
Academic Journal
Two sympatrically occurring bat species, the greater mouse-eared bat ( Myotis myotis (Borkhausen, 1797)) and the lesser mouse-eared bat ( Myotis blythii (Tomes, 1857)) (Chiroptera, Vespertillionidae), share numerous similarities in morphology, roosting behaviour, and echolocation and are often difficult to distinguish. However, despite these similarities, their foraging behaviour is noticeably different. Our aim was to examine the extent to which these different foraging strategies reflect morphological adaptation. We assessed whether the morphology of the wing, body, and tail differed between M. myotis and M. blythii. In addition, in a laboratory experiment involving an obstacle course, we compared differences in manoeuvrability by relating them to our morphological measurements. The two species differed in their overall size, wing-tip shape, and tail-to-body length ratio. The generally smaller sized M. blythii performed better in the obstacle course and was therefore considered to be more manoeuvrable. Although differences in wing-tip shape were observed, we found the most important characteristic affecting manoeuvrability in both species to be the tail-to-body length ratio. Additionally, when we compared two bats with injured wing membranes with unharmed bats of the same species, we found no difference in manoeuvrability, even when the wing shape was asymmetric. We therefore postulate that morphometric differences between the two species in their overall size and, more importantly, in their tail-to-body length ratio are the main physical characteristics providing proof of adaptation to different foraging and feeding strategies.


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