Light enough to travel: Migratory bats have smaller brains, but not larger hippocampi, than sedentary species

Liam P. McGuire, John M. Ratcliffe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Scopus citations

Abstract

Migratory bird species have smaller brains than non-migratory species.The behavioural flexibility/ migratory precursor hypothesis suggests that sedentary birds have larger brains to allow the behavioural flexibility required in a seasonally variable habitat. The energy trade-off hypothesis proposes that brains are heavy, energetically expensive and therefore, incompatible with migration. Here, we compared relative brain, neocortex and hippocampus volume between migratory and sedentary bats at the species-level and using phylogenetically independent contrasts. We found that migratory bats had relatively smaller brains and neocortices than sedentary species. Our results support the energy trade-off hypothesis because bats do not exhibit the same degree of flexibility in diet selection as sedentary birds. Our results also suggest that bat brain size differences are subtler than those found in birds, perhaps owing to bats' shorter migration distances. Conversely, we found no difference in relative hippocampus volume between migratory and sedentary species, underscoring our limited understanding of the role of the hippocampus in bats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-236
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Volume7
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 23 2011

Keywords

  • Bats
  • Brain size
  • Hippocampus
  • Migration
  • Neocortex

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