Beyond size - morphological predictors of bite force in a diverse insectivorous bat assemblage from Malaysia

Juliana Senawi, Daniela Schmieder, Bjorn Siemers, Tigga Kingston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Bite force is used to investigate feeding performance in a variety of vertebrates. In all taxa studied, bite force is strongly correlated with body and head size. Studies of bite force in bats have largely centred on neotropical species with a particular focus on species that maximize dietary differences. Little is known about the bite force of bats from the Old World tropics, nor of variation in bite force within diverse assemblages of obligate insectivores. Moreover, factors other than size are poorly known but may be important in driving interspecific differences in bite force, and thereby diet. Here, we examine the correlation between morphological variation and bite force of 35 species of insectivorous bats from a single palaeotropical assemblage. We confirmed the overall relationship between size and bite force across species, but found that bite force is predicted more strongly by head length than body mass or forearm length. From the combined action of jaw muscles and muscle-bone mechanisms, bats generate a mechanical advantage that creates pressure during biting. We calculated the size-independent mechanical advantage for each of five mandible lever systems (three delineated by the temporalis muscle and two delineated by the masseter muscle) operating through three function points (molar, canine and incisor). Size-independent mechanical advantage of the suprazygomatic portion of the temporalis muscle at the molar function point was the only significant predictor of size-independent maximum bite force across all species. Within families, the size-independent mechanical advantage of the superficial portion of the masseter muscle plays a significant role in predicting size-independent maximum bite force in both the Rhinolophidae and Vespertilionidae. For the family Hipposideridae, however, size-independent mechanical advantage showed no role in predicting size-independent maximum bite force, suggesting that size really matters in predicting the maximum bite force capacity for this family.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1411-1420
Number of pages10
JournalFunctional Ecology
Volume29
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2015

Keywords

  • Mandible lever
  • Masseter muscle
  • Mechanical advantage
  • Palaeotropical bats
  • Temporalis muscle

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