Sensory adaptations reshaped intrinsic factors underlying morphological diversification in bats

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Abstract

Background: Morphological evolution may be impacted by both intrinsic (developmental, constructional, physiological) and extrinsic (ecological opportunity and release) factors, but can intrinsic factors be altered by adaptive evolution and, if so, do they constrain or facilitate the subsequent diversification of biological form? Bats underwent deep adaptive divergences in skull shape as they evolved different sensory modes; here we investigate the potential impact of this process on two intrinsic factors that underlie morphological variation across organisms, allometry, and modularity. Results: We use comparative phylogenetic and morphometric approaches to examine patterns of evolutionary allometry and modularity across a 3D geometric morphometric dataset spanning all major bat clades. We show that allometric relationships diverge between echolocators and visually oriented non-echolocators and that the evolution of nasal echolocation reshaped the modularity of the bat cranium. Conclusions: Shifts in allometry and modularity may have significant consequences on the diversification of anatomical structures, as observed in the bat skull.

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Arbour, J. H., Curtis, A. A., & Santana, S. E. (2021). Sensory adaptations reshaped intrinsic factors underlying morphological diversification in bats. BMC Biology, 19(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12915-021-01022-3

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