Flight style in bats as predicted from wing morphometry: the effects of specimen preservation

Authors

  • O. R. P. Bininda-Emonds,

    1. Vertebrate Morphology Research Group, Department of Biological Sciences, The University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive N.W., Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4
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  • A. P. Russell

    1. Vertebrate Morphology Research Group, Department of Biological Sciences, The University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive N.W., Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4
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Abstract

An as yet unconsidered potential error in studies that predict flight style from morphological measurements of bats is the effect of the specimen type employed. On the basis of the finding that morphological measurements taken from fluid-preserved bat specimens may not yield values equivalent to those taken from the live animal, we compared the values of several variables (lifting surface area, wingspan, mass, aspect ratio, wing loading and minimum power speed) for live and fluid-preserved little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) with the accepted standards for this species given by Norberg & Rayner (1987). Significant differences were detected for lifting surface area, wingspan, mass, aspect ratio and wing loading values taken from live bats and their respective values reported by Norberg & Rayner. Differences between preserved bats and Norberg & Rayner's numbers were limited to lifting surface area and wingspan (extended wing positions only), aspect ratio (all wing positions), and mass (both 70% ethanol- and 45% isopropyl alcohol-preserved specimens). Thus, Norberg & Rayner's values correspond most closely to values obtained from preserved museum specimens, a fact reflecting the source of their data in this instance. This and other limitations involved in attempting to predict the flight style of bats from a few morphological characters are discussed.

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