Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Biologists use GPS to 'map' bat teeth to explore evolutionary adaptations to diet

Date:
February 19, 2011
Source:
Wiley-Blackwell
Summary:
In a clever use of GPS technology, biologists have "mapped" the topography of bat teeth as if they were uncharted mountain ranges, in order to better understand how toothy ridges, peaks and valleys have evolved to allow different species to eat everything from hard-shelled insects to blood and nectar.

Using a method based on geographic positioning systems that allowed them to characterize the topography of the bats' molars in a way similar to how geographers characterize mountain surfaces, the researchers calculated a measure of dental complexity that reflects how "rugged" the surface of the tooth is. They illustrate a trend from relative simplicity of the shearing molars in insect eaters and omnivores to high complexity of the crushing molars in fruit eaters.

Working with field-collected bat skulls, researchers Sharlene Santana and Betsy Dumont of UMass Amherst, with Suzanne Strait of Marshall University, W. Va., compared the structure of molars across 17 species of the New World leaf-nosed bats that specialize in a variety of different diets (insects, fruits, and a combination). It's well known that mammalian tooth structure and function are strongly related to diet, but this study goes further, the authors explain, to directly measure trends in the relationships among diet, tooth structure, feeding performance and feeding behavior.

They found that the molars of fruit-eating species had sharp outer edges that likely allow them to pierce tough fruit skin and pulp, plus large surfaces with tiny indentations that may help them grind fruit pulp efficiently. By contrast, the molars of insect-eating species were less complex, possibly because of their smoother shearing surfaces. The more simply-shaped teeth would presumably be good for cutting through hard insect exoskeleton. This study is published in the Feb. 16 online issue of the journal Functional Ecology.

Santana and colleagues further tested if, within insect-eating species, higher molar complexity was related to a greater ability to crush insect prey. They fed beetles to field-caught bats, recorded their feeding behavior, then collected fecal samples to measure how well the beetles had been broken down. "We found that insect-eating bats with more complex molars were better at breaking down prey, but how much bats chewed their prey was also important," Santana and colleagues say.

Like any specialized tool, teeth are designed to match the task, in this case breaking down food. Tooth shapes are very specialized to meet specific functions, Santana explains. "However, little is known about how the structure of teeth in bats from this family evolved in relation to the types of food they eat. Across mammals, there's also little information about how differences in tooth structure among species relate to how well they perform during feeding."

"Our study highlights the functional significance of tooth structure and chewing behavior in breaking down natural prey and provides the basis for future studies relating 3D tooth structure to the animals' ability to break down food, how species divide up food resources and how those divisions evolve," they point out. This work provides a major step forward in understanding mammalian feeding systems.

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation, a UMass Natural History Collections David J. Klingener Endowment Scholarship, a Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Predoctoral Fellowship and a Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Grant from the American Museum of Natural History.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wiley-Blackwell. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sharlene E. Santana, Suzanne Strait, Elizabeth R. Dumont. The better to eat you with: functional correlates of tooth structure in bats. Functional Ecology, 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2011.01832.x

Cite This Page:

Wiley-Blackwell. "Biologists use GPS to 'map' bat teeth to explore evolutionary adaptations to diet." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110218111713.htm>.
Wiley-Blackwell. (2011, February 19). Biologists use GPS to 'map' bat teeth to explore evolutionary adaptations to diet. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110218111713.htm
Wiley-Blackwell. "Biologists use GPS to 'map' bat teeth to explore evolutionary adaptations to diet." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110218111713.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins