Nectarivorous feeding mechanisms in bats



Cranio-dental characteristics are quantified between micro- and megachiropteran nectarivores and compared with microchiropteran animalivores, frugivores, and megachiropteran frugivores. Microchiropteran nectarivores share many characteristics with megachiropteran nectarivores and frugivores, but differ in having a long, narrow head. Megachiropterans have wide zygomata, which would allow for more jaw musculature. Diminutive cheekteeth are characteristic of nectarivory in both suborders, but both have relatively large canines. Teeth in nectarivores can occupy as little as a tenth of the palatal area compared to nearly two-thirds in microchiropteran animalivores. The proportion that the dilambdodont stylar shelf occupies of molars in microchiropteran nectarivores can be as much as that in microchiropteran animalivores (insectivorous and carnivorous bats) or as little as that in microchiropteran frugivores but not as extreme as either. In addition to dimunitive teeth, nectarivores have fused mandibles and upper canines that are worn from contact with the lower canines (thegosis). These characteristics may be necessary for the lower jaw to support an elongated, mobile tongue. While microchiropteran nectarivory, frugivory, and carnivory probably evolved independently from an insectivorous microchiropteran ancestor, megachiropteran nectarivory probably evolved from megachiropteran frugivory or the reverse.