A global-scale analysis of local-scale bat morphospace assembly
Ecologists have long debated whether environmental variables shape the morphological structure of communities or whether communities simply reflect the evolutionary history of a region. An ecomorphological approach is used here to test these hypotheses based on the cranial morphospaces of 73 bat assemblages from the Old and New Worlds. The results echo those of previous literature by demonstrating strong coupling between chiropteran ecology and skull shape. Several regional ‘syndromes’, i.e. stereotypical assemblage compositions, characterize the Neotropics, Indomalaya, and Australasia. Two other syndromes lack affiliation with specific regions, one of which features sparse morphospaces and the other of which is defined by the dominance of pteropodid bats. Sparse morphospaces are present in localities with strong dry seasons, suggesting dispersed draws from morphologically diverse pools. Variation between Afrotropic assemblages was high, which may suggest microhabitat filtering.