Bat species comparisons based on external morphology: a test of traditional versus geometric morphometric approaches

Daniela A. Schmieder, Hugo A. Benítez, Ivailo M. Borissov, Carmelo Fruciano

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Abstract

External morphology is commonly used to identify bats as well as to investigate flight and foraging behavior, typically relying on simple length and area measures or ratios. However, geometric morphometrics is increasingly used in the biological sciences to analyse variation in shape and discriminate among species and populations. Here we compare the ability of traditional versus geometric morphometric methods in discriminating between closely related bat species - in this case European horseshoe bats (Rhinolophidae, Chiroptera) - based on morphology of the wing, body and tail. In addition to comparing morphometric methods, we used geometric morphometrics to detect interspecies differences as shape changes. Geometric morphometrics yielded improved species discrimination relative to traditional methods. The predicted shape for the variation along the between group principal components revealed that the largest differences between species lay in the extent to which the wing reaches in the direction of the head. This strong trend in interspecific shape variation is associated with size, which we interpret as an evolutionary allometry pattern.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0127043
Number of pages13
JournalPLoS One
Volume10
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2015

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