Macro-evolutionary trade-offs as the basis for the distribution of European bats

in Animal Biology
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Bats have a high species diversity and show unique ecological traits. The distribution patterns of European bat species differ between species. In this paper we seek to explain which life history traits, or interrelations between traits, can best explain observed differences in the distribution patterns of bats. Traits are interrelated and sometimes involve trade-offs, implying that a change in one trait may have positive or negative consequences for other traits. We describe the main morphological, physiological and ecological adaptations of insectivorous European bat species. We make pair-wise relations between traits, indicating the interrelations between traits, in terms of possible trade-offs. We relate the consequences of these trade-offs to the distribution maps of the species, focusing on the traits relevant for southern and northern distribution limits. We found coarse patterns that might indicate the distribution of related species are a consequence of their physiological, morphological and ecological adaptations and the interrelations between these adaptations. Hence, we think life-history strategies can be used to explain differences in species distribution. The method presented in this paper might also be useful for other mammal groups with a high species diversity, such as Rodentia and Soricidae.

Macro-evolutionary trade-offs as the basis for the distribution of European bats

in Animal Biology

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Figures

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    Relation between average litter size and the most northerly distribution limit of the reproductive population for several European bat species. The marker shapes indicate the northern boundary of the species reproductive range: below 54° latitude (diamond markers) and above 55° (triangular markers). See table S1 for species abbreviations.

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    Relative weight of neonate to adult female compared with average litter size (Wald χ2=27.730, P<0.0001). The marker shape indicates the northern boundary of the species’ reproductive range: below 54° latitude (diamond markers) and above 55° (triangular markers). See table S1 for species abbreviations.

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    Relation between the number of weaning days and the average body mass of the adult bat (Wald χ2=4.566, P=0.033). The marker shape indicates the northern boundary of the species’ reproductive range: below 54° latitude (diamond markers) and above 55° (triangular markers). See table S1 for species abbreviations.

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    The relation between the number of weaning weeks and relative weight of litters (R2=0.267, P=0.012). The marker shapes indicate the northern boundary of the species’ reproductive range: below 54° latitude (diamond markers) and above 55° (triangular markers). The difference between the two encircled groups is significant (paired samples T-test, both groups N=15, t=1.606, P=0.004). See table S1 for species abbreviations.

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    The relation between observed average age (in years) and average litter size (Wald χ2=13.943, P<0.0001). Species with an average age of first reproduction (in days after birth) of less than 390 days are highlighted in grey. The marker shapes indicate the northern boundary of the species reproductive range: below 54° latitude (diamond markers) and above 55° (triangular markers). See table S1 for species abbreviations.

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    The minimum temperature at which each species is observed hibernating within their reproductive range (R2=0.569, P<0.0001). The shape of the markers indicates the northernmost point at which each species has been found reproducing: below 54° latitude (triangular markers) and above 55° (diamond markers). See table S1 for species abbreviations.

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    The relation between wing aspect ratio and wing load. The shape of the markers indicates the main component of the echolocation type used by each bat species: CF (circular markers), FM (square markers), and QCF (cross markers). The font style indicates the northern boundary of each species’ reproductive range (roman below 54° latitude and underlined above 55°). See table S1 for species abbreviations.

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    Relation between reproduction (the average number of days spent weaning) and the average migration distance (log scale). The marker shapes indicate the northern boundary of the species reproductive range: below 54° latitude (diamond markers) and above 55° (triangular markers). Five species (Nnoc, N. noctula; Nlei, N. leisleri; Vmur, V. murinus; Pnat, P. nathusii; and Ppip, P. pipistrellus) with both strong migration abilities and the ability to hibernate in a wide range of winter roosts, are non-obligatory migratory species. In summer areas without the need for migration, they can spend more energy on reproduction (arrows). (R2 for the northern species, without bat species N. noctula, N. leisleri, V. murinus, P. nathusii and P. pipistrellus = −0.331, P=0.082). See table S1 for species abbreviations.

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