Areas of Expertise

Evolutionary Biology; Palaeobiology; Zoology; Ecomorphology; Evolutionary Development

The evolution of bat wings beyond flight: Morphological disparity and phenotypic integration of forelimb shape variation

Bats perform a wide variety of tasks using their forelimbs aside from flying, meaning that forelimb ecomorphology would correspond not only to functional needs related to different flight behaviours (e.g. hovering, gleaning), but also climbing, grooming, pup carrying, feeding, roosting, walking and even wing-clicking echolocation (Dietz 1973; Swartz, et al. 1992; Riskin, et al. 2005; Schliemann and Goodman 2011; Boonman, et al. 2014). Previous studies suggest that differential functional demands, resulting from specific ecological and behavioural needs, are related to morphological differences found in the wings of bats (de Camargo and de Oliveira 2012; Schmieder, et al. 2015).

Studying the evolution of some of these ecological features has contributed to the understanding of the evolution of bats with evolutionary hypotheses such as the convergent evolution of terrestrial locomotion and upstand roosting, and the polyphyletic origin of nectarivory (Fenton 2010). Given that in order to master such traits, novel forelimb functional strategies would have had to originate (e.g. walking gait for terrestrial locomotion and hovering flight for nectarivory), it could be inferred that morphological disparity in forelimb morphology could coevolve associated to ecological traits of other kinds (Adams 2007). However, this hypothesis remains untested.

To gain a comprehensive understanding of the functionality of bat wings, this project will assess the developmental, palaeoecological and phylogenetic aspects of bat wing evolution.


SupervisorsAssociate Professor Sue HandDr Laura Wilson and Daisuke Koyabu (University of Tokyo)

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Twitter: @cernestola



López-Aguirre, C., Archer, M., Hand, S. J. & Laffan, S. W. (2017) Extinction of South American sparassodontans (Metatheria): Environmental fluctuations or complex ecological processes? Palaeontology. 60(1): 91-115.

Wilson, L. A. B., Hand, S. J. & López-Aguirre, C. et al. (2016) Cranial shapevariation and phylogenetic relationships of extinct and extant Old-World leaf-nosedbats. Alcheringa: An Australasian journal of Palaeontology. 40: 509-524.

López-Aguirre, C., Pérez-Torres, J. & Wilson, L. A. B. (2015). Cranial and mandibular shape variation in the genus Carollia (Mammalia: Chiroptera) from Colombia: biogeographic patterns and morphological modularity. PeerJ 3: e1197.

López-Aguirre, C. &Pérez-Torres, J (2015). Cranial and mandibular asymmetry in Artibeus lituratus (Chiroptera, Phyllostomidae) from Colombia. Universitas Scientiarum. 20(1): 141-150.

López-Aguirre, C. (2014). Dental anomalies: New cases of Artibeus lituratus from Colombia and a review of these anomalies in bats (Chiroptera). Chiroptera Neotropical. 20(2): 1271-1279.