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Evolution: Physiological adaptation as a response to environmental changes or stress The evolution of a new species is usually a response to environmental change or stress and arises from spontaneous, random genetic mutations acted on by the forces of natural selection, this is a simplification of the evolutionary theory credited to Darwin. Bats took on a nocturnal lifestyle to reduce competition from birds in the daytime, reduce the incidence of predation on themselves and also to take advantage of the abundance of insects which they mostly feed on (cite), this new way of life required some adaptations which the bats surely developed and will be mentioned below. Stress can be defined as any circumstance which disturbs the normal functioning of a biological system (Bayne, 1975), it could be in the form of scarcity of food, water, temperature changes, or solar energy. The animal then responds to temporal stressors by behavioural or physiological changes (e.g. in metabolic rate changes to combat temperature change) and permanent changes are responded to by anatomical adaptations to better cope with these changes in the environment (Unpublished course material, 2010).Bats have several adaptations as responses to their feeding habits and habitats, some of which this essay will attempt to discuss, with particular focus on echolocation. Flight Flight costs the animal a lot less than running along the ground and up and down trees in search of food; it also makes the animal less
This is then believed to have extended to the tail region. This is highly criticised as the anatomy of known bat limbs do not indicate that they could run at any considerable speed.susceptible to predation (Altringham. something like that found in flying squirrels. Migrating bats are those that live in the cold northern climates during summer months and move to warmer climates in winter. This is the arboreal theory of evolution of bat flight as presented by Darwin in 1859 and is the most widely supported by scientists. Temperature regulation Bats. bats are referred to as migrators. The cursorial theory proposes that the ancestors of modern bats were creatures who already had evolved wings then ran at very high speeds then leaped into the air. 1965). It must also be stated that some bats carry out both migration and hibernation and thus a classification of species into categories based on these is impossible. tropical or hibernators. eventually webbing developed between the fingers and as they became longer. 1998). like all mammals are endotherms. the tropical bats live in the warm tropical regions all their lives while the hibernators go into a state of very low metabolism during the cold winter months (Stones and Wiebers. 1998). The morphological features of bat wings are aerodynamically suited to flapping flight (Altringham. covering the spaces between the hind limbs and the tail. It is speculated that the ancestors of microbats jumped from branch to branch after insects for thousands of years and then evolved membranes for gliding. but they are widely variable in terms of temperature regulation. this also increased the surface area of the wings. the other proposed theory is the cursorial theory. In respect of temperature regulation. 1998). the bats fatten themselves on the food available . utilising the speed obtained to gain lift then fly. ranging from strict homoeothermy to heterothermy (Altringham.
if the ambient temperature gets too cold. the bat will increase its metabolism and burn more energy to prevent itself from becoming too cold. 2003). in experiments carried out by Laska (1990b). oxygen consumption. bats may lose a lot of heat during cold periods. similar to hibernation. while remaining in the state. Temperature regulation during torpor is tightly controlled. Torpor can be defined as a state of very low physiological activity. arousal can be supressed for days(Ransome. it was found that the phyllostomid bat . Another difference is that increase in temperature beyond its limit will usually awaken the bat from torpor whereas during winter hibernation. 1990). where there are not much variations in temperature. one difference being the very short duration of time.during the autumn months in preparation for hibernation during winter. many bat species rely on their sense of smell to identify and locate their food. this is used to fuel the very low levels of metabolism (during hibernation) for up to 200 days (Speakman and Thomas. however a study done by Bartels et al in 1998 shows that the Northern Blossom bat-Macroglossus minimus (a member of the megachiroptera suborder) do undergo daily torpor as a means to reduce energy expenditure. Bats can also go into a shallow torpor during the day. even though the torpor was considered very shallow indeed. Sensory systems: Olfaction Depending on their feeding behaviours. breathing and heart rate. Due to their relatively large surface areas. It was previously thought that the megachiropteran species do not have need for torpor or hibernation. due to their usually large sizes and dwelling exclusively in the tropics and subtropics. it usually occurs at night. metabolism and body temperature.
they have small pits around their nose leaves that are insulated from the surrounding tissues and kept at temperatures 9 degrees lower than the rest of the face. In addition to the nature of diet and the secretary glands. the odour of some bat species are also affected by bacterial action as a result of the conditions in their roosts (Gorman and Towbridge. 1994) For some species of bats. 1996). this enables them to select suitable bite spots on the bodies of their prey (Kurten and Schmidt. Thermoperception Only one species of bats have been found to possess adaptations for temperature perception-the vampire bat Desmodius rotundus.1989 ). 1982). The sense used in a particular situation appears to be dependent on individual experience and training and points to the fact that bats use multimodal cues (Hessel and Schmidt. this odour is a product of glands in the bats· body which produce oily secretions (Brooke and Decker.1990a). These scents are usually stronger in the males than in the female animal and are species specific. .Carollia perspicillatacould recognise specific odour components regardless of dilution or even chemically masking the odour (Laska. odour is the way a mother recognises her offspring (Gustin and McCracken. each individual has a unique odour which may be used in identification. Touch There has been no research to study touch in bats but it appears that they have a typical mammalian tactile system and that touch must serve an important role in respect of varying roosting conditions. It is expected that other species of vampire bats also have this. though it has not been confirmed. 1987) In many species of bats.
little work has since been done on exactly how bats home and navigate over long distances. 1969). however vision does not seem to give the same level of . Thies et al. Larger eyes are related to larger vision processing sites in the brain. first located their food (Piper fruit) by using olfactory cues and then switched to echolocation when actually removing the fruit. Bats· eyes seem to be better adapted for distances over which echolocation is less effective. Myotis lucifugus was found to use both echolocation and vision when avoiding obstacles during flight (Bradbury and Nottebohm. Research has also shown that vision plays an important role in short range homing and navigation. followed by shape (as determined by echolocation). less conspicuous eyes. The role of vision was not explored in the said experiment. bats were masked to impair their vision and then released at distances of about 10km from their roosts. forward pointed eyes was found to be able to fly blindfolded through an obstacle course but when its ears were mildly blocked. the combination would depend on personal experience and the peculiarity of the situation. there are no known species of blind bats. it was found that birds with masks returned to the roosts much later than those who did not have their vision impaired (Williams et al. it made no attempt to take flight (Lee et al. Megaderma lyra. ¶as blind as a bat·.1966). Vision Contrary to the popular saying. Their visual acuity varies with megachiroptera having large prominent eyes while microchiroptera have smaller.Multimodal perception It is believed that bats may employ several of their senses at the same time in certain instances. 1992). it was found that odour played the most important role in making the bats attempt to take any of the presented real or artificial fruits . a species with large..(1998) demonstrated that Carollia spp.
1970). it is expected that species whose daytime roosts are foliage will be more tolerant to bright light than those who roost in dark caves or crevices in the daytime. 1970).accuracy as echolocation (Suthers. it was found to first detect the object at 5m using echolocation and 1m using vision. 1990). non echolocating bats have less acute hearing. Bats· eyes are adapted to work best at low light levels with thresholds close to that of owls and outperform human eyes at low light levels (Neuweiler. 1982 to compare the accuracy of locating a sphere with diameter of 19mm by Eptesicus fuscus. have larger visual and olfactory centres in their brains. 1970. this gives credence to the previously mentioned point that sight is used over distances greater than that within which echolocation would be useful. suggesting the importance of these senses in their lives. An experiment was conducted by Kick. for example. Echolocating bats however have more acute hearing over ranges that are most useful to them. the same bat would detect a tree sized object at 300m by sight and <40m by echolocation. 1985). The retinas of bats (like most nocturnal mammals) are dominated by rods but some megachiroptera have been found to also have cones (Suthers. Tolerance to light was tested using electroretinography and found to vary widely. Suthers and Wallis. 1967) and the megachiroptera in particular. Hearing Bats have typically structured mammalian auditory systems and most species can hear sounds at least in the frequency range of 1050 kHz (Neuweiler. Few experiments have attempted to measure sensitivity of bats· hearing to sounds below 10 kHz and it was found that Antrozous pallidus responds to sounds . this is thought to be related to their behaviour (Fenton.
in ranges inaudible to humans. It is the system by which animals analyse echoes of sound waves produced by them and use it to create a sound-picture of their environments (Altringham. Trachops cirrhosis was found to be sensitive to sounds below 5 kHz which is the dominating frequency of the calls of the frogs they routinely feed on (Ryan et al. 1998). Several animals make use of sound waves in this manner and include bats. 1974). Echolocation Echolocation is also referred to as biosonar. the most of which can be seen in bats whose echolocation calls are mainly of one frequency. 1982) and to crickets (Fuzessery et al. 1993). . Some marsupials and rodents also emit ultrasonic sounds but their use is yet to be determined as either for echolocation as well or only for communication (Sales and Pye.1993)... There have been remarkable changes in the hearing systems of bats which echolocate. insectivores (tenrecs and shrews) and some species of birds (cave dwelling swiftlets and oilbirds).of fluttering wings of moths (2-14 kHz)(Bell. some of them however utilise low frequency sounds that may be audible to humans. In behavioural experiments. These sounds are usually of high frequency. 1990). cetaceans (toothed whales and dolphins). 1983). These bats have an ¶acoustic fovea· that is tuned to constant frequency echo frequency (Neuweiler.. Their hearing acuity is enhanced by the pinnae and is matched to the bats· frequency requirement (Obrist. et al. they have been found to have specializations to detect movement or fluttering by Doppler shift compensation.
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