Acoustic divergence in two cryptic Hipposideros species: A role for social selection?

T. Kingston, M. C. Lara, G. Jones, Z. Akbar, T. H. Kunz, C. J. Schneider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

125 Scopus citations


We present evidence that a relatively widespread and common bat from South East Asia comprises two morphologically cryptic but acoustically divergent species. A population of the bicoloured leaf-nosed bat (Hipposideros bicolor) from Peninsular Malaysia exhibits a bimodal distribution of echolocation call frequencies, with peaks in the frequency of maximum energy at ca. 131 and 142 kHz. The two phonic types are genetically distinct, with a cytochrome b sequence divergence of just under 7%. We consider the mechanisms by which acoustic divergence in these species might arise. Differences in call frequency are not likely to effect resource partitioning by detectable prey size or functional range. However, ecological segregation may be achieved by differences in microhabitat use; the 131 kHz H. bicolor is characterized by significantly longer forearms, lower wing loading, a lower aspect ratio and a more rounded wingtip, features that are associated with greater manoeuvrability in flight that may enable it to forage in more cluttered environments relative to the 142 kHz phonic type. We suggest that acoustic divergence in these species is a consequence of social selection for a clear communication channel, which is mediated by the close link between the acoustic signal and receptor systems imposed by the highly specialized nature of the hipposiderid and rhinolophid echolocation system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1381-1386
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1474
StatePublished - 2001


  • Acoustic resource partitioning
  • Echolocation
  • Speciation
  • Wing morphology


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