Clutter negotiating ability in an ensemble of forest interior bats is driven by body mass

Juliana Senawi, Tigga Kingston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Differences in wing morphology are predicted to reflect differences in bat foraging strategies. Experimental tests of this prediction typically assess the relationship between wing morphology and a measures of flight performance on an obstacle course. However, studies have lacked measures of obstacle avoidance ability true scores, which may confound interpretation of ability across the range of presented tasks. Here, we used Rasch analysis of performance in a collision-avoidance experiment to estimate the ability of bat species to fly through vegetative clutter. We refer to this latent trait as ‘clutter negotiating ability’ and determined the relationships between clutter negotiating ability and wing morphology in 15 forest insectivorous bat species that forage in the densely cluttered rainforests of Malaysia. The clutter negotiating ability scores were quantified based on individual responses of each species to 11 different obstacle arrangements (four banks of vertical strings 10–60 cm apart). The tasks employed for the collision-avoidance experiment were reliable and valid, although Rasch analysis suggested that the experiment was too easy to discriminate completely among the 15 species. We found significant negative correlations between clutter negotiating ability and body mass, wingspan, wing loading and wing area but a positive significant correlation with wingtip area ratio. However, in stepwise multiple regression analyses, only body mass and wing loading were significant predictors of clutter negotiating ability. Species fell into clusters of different clutter negotiating ability, suggesting a potential mechanism for resource partitioning within the forest interior insectivorous ensemble.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb.203950
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number23
StatePublished - 2019


  • Flight
  • Item response theory
  • Maneuverability
  • Rasch analysis
  • Resource partitioning
  • Wing morphology


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