Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Using GPS to Map Bat Teeth, Explore Diet Adaptations

In a clever use of GPS technology, biologists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have “mapped” the topography of bat teeth as if they were uncharted mountain ranges, in order to better understand how toothy ridges, peaks and valleys have evolved to allow different species to eat everything from hard-shelled insects to blood and nectar.

Using a method based on geographic positioning systems that allowed them to characterize the topography of the bats’ molars in a way similar to how geographers characterize mountain surfaces, the researchers calculated a measure of dental complexity that reflects how “rugged” the surface of the tooth is. They illustrate a trend from relative simplicity of the shearing molars in insect eaters and omnivores to high complexity of the crushing molars in fruit eaters.

Working with field-collected bat skulls, researchers Sharlene Santana and Betsy Dumont of UMass Amherst, with Suzanne Strait of Marshall University, W. Va., compared the structure of molars across 17 species of the New World leaf-nosed bats that specialize in a variety of different diets (insects, fruits, and a combination). It’s well known that mammalian tooth structure and function are strongly related to diet, but this study goes further, the authors explain, to directly measure trends in the relationships among diet, tooth structure, feeding performance and feeding behavior.

They found that the molars of fruit-eating species had sharp outer edges that likely allow them to pierce tough fruit skin and pulp, plus large surfaces with tiny indentations that may help them grind fruit pulp efficiently. By contrast, the molars of insect-eating species were less complex, possibly because of their smoother shearing surfaces. The more simply-shaped teeth would presumably be good for cutting through hard insect exoskeleton. This study is published in the Feb. 16 online issue of the journal Functional Ecology.

Santana and colleagues further tested if, within insect-eating species, higher molar complexity was related to a greater ability to crush insect prey. They fed beetles to field-caught bats, recorded their feeding behavior, then collected fecal samples to measure how well the beetles had been broken down. “We found that insect-eating bats with more complex molars were better at breaking down prey, but how much bats chewed their prey was also important,” Santana and colleagues say.

Like any specialized tool, teeth are designed to match the task, in this case breaking down food. Tooth shapes are very specialized to meet specific functions, Santana explains. “However, little is known about how the structure of teeth in bats from this family evolved in relation to the types of food they eat. Across mammals, there’s also little information about how differences in tooth structure among species relate to how well they perform during feeding.”

“Our study highlights the functional significance of tooth structure and chewing behavior in breaking down natural prey and provides the basis for future studies relating 3D tooth structure to the animals’ ability to break down food, how species divide up food resources and how those divisions evolve,” they point out. This work provides a major step forward in understanding mammalian feeding systems.

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation, a UMass Natural History Collections David J. Klingener Endowment Scholarship, a Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Predoctoral Fellowship and a Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Grant from the American Museum of Natural History.

Elizabeth Dumont | Newswise Science News
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Here comes the long-sought-after iron-munching microbe
25.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie

nachricht Novel method to benchmark and improve the performance of protein measumeasurement techniques
25.10.2016 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

First-time reconstruction of infectious bat influenza viruses

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Novel method to benchmark and improve the performance of protein measumeasurement techniques

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Amazon rain helps make more rain

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>