Katie Stanchak successfully defended her Dissertation this past October! Katie’s research focused on the anatomical diversification and function of a skeletal novelty found in bat feet, the calcar. She conducted unprecedented comparative analyses of the calcar and associated structures across major bat groups, and experimental assays to better understand the function and developmental origin of the calcar. We are so proud of all she accomplished during her PhD, and excited about her postdoc plans to continue studying morphological and functional diversity in other vertebrate groups!
Congratulations to the newly minted PhDs from the lab, Rochelle Kelly and Leith Leiser-Miller!! Both of them did a terrific job defending their dissertations last week. Rochelle’s research revealed geographic and ecological factors that affect the diversity, distribution, and activity of bats in the San Juan archipelago. Leith’s dissertation led to exciting discoveries about the acoustic diversity and sensory ecomorphology of phyllostomid bats . We are so proud of all the work they were able to accomplish!
Congratulations to lab members receiving awards and grants this summer!
Katie Stanchak was awarded the American Society of Mammalogists’ Anna M. Jackson Award, which carries the honor of presenting her paper at the opening Plenary Session of the ASM meeting this year.
David Villalobos was awarded a Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Fund grant from the American Museum of Natural History to conduct field research on cricetid rodents in Costa Rica this summer.
PI Santana was awarded a Fulbright Scholars fellowship to expand upon her work on the coevolution between pepper plants and short-tailed fruit bats in Costa Rica, where she will be spending part of her sabbatical next year.
In a new and exciting paper in Nature Communications, we present the results of phylogenetic comparative analyses across hundreds of bat species, and demonstrate how two major forces –echolocation and diet– shaped the diversity of bat skulls over their evolutionary history. Check out this press release highlighting the main results of the paper, and the methods we used!
Why do some species have larger individuals in certain parts of their range? In many animal species, body size tends to increase with latitude. This famous ecological pattern, known as Bergmann’s Rule, was originally thought to be an adaptation for heat conservation. However, several hypotheses have been proposed, such as resource availability, resistance to starvation, and heat dissipation. We evaluate which of these hypotheses best explain geographic size variation in the Pallid bat in our new paper (Kelly et al., in press). We also investigate potential consequences of size variation by testing whether skull shape (an indicator of bite performance) changes in tandem with size.
Our results suggest that primary productivity (a proxy for resource availability) and to a lesser extent, heat conservation, best explain size variation across the Pallid bat’s western range. We also found that larger individuals have cranial traits associated with greater bite force production. This may help explain why larger individuals tend to consume larger and harder prey. Our results suggest that resource availability is a major factor explaining size, morphology, and possibly feeding performance in a wide-ranging and omnivorous bat species.
We travelled to Knoxville for the 2017 North American Symposium for Bat Research! As always, we had a wonderful time presenting and discussing our work, and catching up with our fellow bat biologists. Here are some highlights of the meeting:
Our 2016 SICB Symposium A bigger picture: organismal function at the nexus of development, ecology, and evolution was a great success! Throughout the day, a stellar roster of 10 speakers led us through their diverse research and perspectives on the study of ontogenetic inertia and its role in vertebrate macroevolution. In a complementary session, held the day before the symposium, 8 graduate students and postdocs presented excellent talks on topics related to ontogeny, functional morphology and evolution. A talented group of 6 American Indian and Native Alaskan undergraduates, invited as part of our broader impacts, also had a productive and fun meeting with the guidance of their grad student mentors. All this was possible thanks to efforts with co-organizer Paul Gignac, a National Science Foundation award, and support from the SICB Divisions of Vertebrate Morphology and Comparative Biomechanics. Stay tuned for the products of this symposium in an upcoming issue of Integrative and Comparative Biology.