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White and clear wings in bats (Chiroptera)

Rydell, J. LU ; Fenton, M. B. ; Seamark, E. ; Webala, P. W. and Michaelsen, T. C. (2020) In Canadian Journal of Zoology 98(2). p.149-156
Abstract

White or clear (“whitish”) wings are a distinct feature in about 30 species of tropical insectivorous bats (Mammalia: Chiroptera) belonging to three families (Emballonuridae, Molossidae, and Vespertilionidae). Such wings may provide camouflage against the sky at dusk and dawn, when bats commute to and from the roost and are vulnerable to aerial predation from birds. We tested this hypothesis by comparing the contrast of black, white, and transparent plastic models against the evening sky. Compared with normally dark wings, white and particularly transparent wings indeed reduce the contrast against the sky and may also prevent overheating in bats flying in daylight. Whitish wings could facilitate earlier evening emergence and later... (More)

White or clear (“whitish”) wings are a distinct feature in about 30 species of tropical insectivorous bats (Mammalia: Chiroptera) belonging to three families (Emballonuridae, Molossidae, and Vespertilionidae). Such wings may provide camouflage against the sky at dusk and dawn, when bats commute to and from the roost and are vulnerable to aerial predation from birds. We tested this hypothesis by comparing the contrast of black, white, and transparent plastic models against the evening sky. Compared with normally dark wings, white and particularly transparent wings indeed reduce the contrast against the sky and may also prevent overheating in bats flying in daylight. Whitish wings could facilitate earlier evening emergence and later morning return, increasing access to crepuscular or diurnal insects as food. But whitish wings become maladaptive near artificial lights, where they are highly visible when illuminated against the dark sky. Pale but colored (not whitish) wings and reticulated patterns on translucent wings in some African and south Asian bats may be variations on the same theme, functional as camouflage against a lit background of vegetation and shades.

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organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Aeroecology, Bats, Camouflage, Chiroptera, Open air, Overheating, Predation, Tropics
in
Canadian Journal of Zoology
volume
98
issue
2
pages
8 pages
publisher
National Research Council Canada
external identifiers
  • scopus:85079275798
ISSN
0008-4301
DOI
10.1139/cjz-2019-0182
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
c7612ef9-cb3d-416e-bbd1-fd7a45e23eb3
date added to LUP
2020-02-21 13:27:30
date last changed
2020-02-26 07:42:30
@article{c7612ef9-cb3d-416e-bbd1-fd7a45e23eb3,
  abstract     = {<p>White or clear (“whitish”) wings are a distinct feature in about 30 species of tropical insectivorous bats (Mammalia: Chiroptera) belonging to three families (Emballonuridae, Molossidae, and Vespertilionidae). Such wings may provide camouflage against the sky at dusk and dawn, when bats commute to and from the roost and are vulnerable to aerial predation from birds. We tested this hypothesis by comparing the contrast of black, white, and transparent plastic models against the evening sky. Compared with normally dark wings, white and particularly transparent wings indeed reduce the contrast against the sky and may also prevent overheating in bats flying in daylight. Whitish wings could facilitate earlier evening emergence and later morning return, increasing access to crepuscular or diurnal insects as food. But whitish wings become maladaptive near artificial lights, where they are highly visible when illuminated against the dark sky. Pale but colored (not whitish) wings and reticulated patterns on translucent wings in some African and south Asian bats may be variations on the same theme, functional as camouflage against a lit background of vegetation and shades.</p>},
  author       = {Rydell, J. and Fenton, M. B. and Seamark, E. and Webala, P. W. and Michaelsen, T. C.},
  issn         = {0008-4301},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {2},
  pages        = {149--156},
  publisher    = {National Research Council Canada},
  series       = {Canadian Journal of Zoology},
  title        = {White and clear wings in bats (Chiroptera)},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/cjz-2019-0182},
  doi          = {10.1139/cjz-2019-0182},
  volume       = {98},
  year         = {2020},
}