Phylogenetic signal, feeding behaviour and brain volume in Neotropical bats



Comparative correlational studies of brain size and ecological traits (e.g. feeding habits and habitat complexity) have increased our knowledge about the selective pressures on brain evolution. Studies conducted in bats as a model system assume that shared evolutionary history has a maximum effect on the traits. However, this effect has not been quantified. In addition, the effect of levels of diet specialization on brain size remains unclear. We examined the role of diet on the evolution of brain size in Mormoopidae and Phyllostomidae using two comparative methods. Body mass explained 89% of the variance in brain volume. The effect of feeding behaviour (either characterized as feeding habits, as levels of specialization on a type of item or as handling behaviour) on brain volume was also significant albeit not consistent after controlling for body mass and the strength of the phylogenetic signal (λ). Although the strength of the phylogenetic signal of brain volume and body mass was high when tested individually, λ values in phylogenetic generalized least squares models were significantly different from 1. This suggests that phylogenetic independent contrasts models are not always the best approach for the study of ecological correlates of brain size in New World bats.