New World leaf-nosed bats (Family Phyllostomidae) display incredible craniofacial diversity that is associated with their broad range of dietary preferences. The short and broad palates of highly frugivorous bats are functionally linked to high bite forces, and the long and narrow palates of nectarivorous bats to flower feeding. Although the functional correlates and evolutionary history of shape variation in phyllostomid palates are beginning to be understood, the specific developmental processes that govern palate diversification remain unknown. To begin to resolve this issue, this study quantified palate morphology in seven phyllostomid species from a range of developmental stages and in adults. This sample includes species with short and broad, long and narrow, and intermediate palate shapes, and thereby covers the range of palate shapes displayed by phyllostomids. Results indicate that while initial palate shape (i.e., width vs. length) varies among species, the pattern of this variation does not match that observed in adults. In contrast, the relative growth of palate width and length in developing phyllostomids and the ratio of these axes in adults are significantly correlated. These and other results suggest that evolutionary alterations in patterns of palate growth have governed the diversification of palate shapes in adult phyllostomids. This implies that the diverse palate shapes of phyllostomids are the result of relatively subtle evolutionary changes in later rather than earlier development events.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics