What Noseleaves Do for FM Bats Depends on Their Degree of Sensorial Specialization
Many bats vocalizing through their nose carry a prominent noseleaf that is involved in shaping the emission beam of these animals. To our knowledge, the exact role of these appendages has not been thoroughly investigated as for no single species both the hearing and the emission spatial sensitivities have been obtained. In this paper, we set out to evaluate the complete spatial sensitivity of two species of New World leaf-nosed bats: Micronycteris microtis and Phyllostomus discolor. From an ecological point of view, these species are interesting as they belong to the same family (Phyllostomidae) and their noseleaves are morphologically similar. They differ vastly in the niche they occupy. Comparing these species allows us to relate differences in function of the noseleaf to the ecological background of bat species.
We simulate the spatial sensitivity of both the hearing and the emission subsystems of two species, M. microtis and P. discolor. This technique allows us to evaluate the respective roles played by the noseleaf in the echolocation system of these species. We find that the noseleaf of M. microtis focuses the radiated energy better and yields better control over the emission beam.
From the evidence presented we conclude that the noseleaves serve quantitatively different functions for different bats. The main function of the noseleaf is to serve as an energy focusing mechanism that increases the difference between the reflected energy from objects in the focal area and objects in the periphery. However, despite the gross morphological similarities between the noseleaves of the two Phyllostomid species they focus the energy to a different extent, a capability that can be linked to the different ecological niches occupied by the two species.
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