Physical characteristics

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Sizes and facial characteristics of American leaf-nosed bats differ substantially among the subfamilies and reflect their di

The range of head shapes and facial features in this family reflect different feeding behaviors. 1. Choeronycteris mexicana is a nectar-feeding bat with a long snout and bristled tongue; 2. Platyrrhinus helleri is a fruit-eating bat with a short snout; 3. Chrotopterus auritus is carnivorous, and 4. Lonchorhina aurita is an insect gleaner; both have large ears and a nose leaf; 5. Diphylla ecaudata is a blood drinker with a short snout and stubby nose leaf. (Illustration by Gillian Harris)

The range of head shapes and facial features in this family reflect different feeding behaviors. 1. Choeronycteris mexicana is a nectar-feeding bat with a long snout and bristled tongue; 2. Platyrrhinus helleri is a fruit-eating bat with a short snout; 3. Chrotopterus auritus is carnivorous, and 4. Lonchorhina aurita is an insect gleaner; both have large ears and a nose leaf; 5. Diphylla ecaudata is a blood drinker with a short snout and stubby nose leaf. (Illustration by Gillian Harris)

verse feeding adaptations. Phyllostomines include the largest members of the family (3.2-6.7 oz; 90-190 g) and generally have the longest nose leaves. The nose leaf of the sword-nosed bat (Lonchorhina aurita), for example, is as long as its long, pointed ears. Large members of this subfamily have robust canines and molars for killing and chewing vertebrate prey. At the other end of the size spectrum are flower-visiting bats (Lonchophyllinae and Glossophaginae), which weigh 0.2-0.8 oz (7-25 g). These bats have elongated muzzles, small nose-leaves, long tongues, and dentition that are reduced in size and number. Fruit-eating bats (Stenodermatinae) weigh 0.2-2.8 oz (5-80 g), have medium-sized nose leaves, and generally have flattened faces with dagger-like canines and broad cheek teeth for grabbing and crushing fruit. Vampire bats

(Desmodontinae) weigh 0.2-1.7 oz (20-50 g) and have much-reduced nose leaves and a reduced number of morphologically specialized teeth. The two upper incisors are sharp and chisel-like for making incisions in the skin of mammals or birds.

The fur color of phyllostomid bats is generally brown or gray, but one species (Ectophylla alba) is white. Many genera of stenodermatines, which often roost in foliage by day, have white facial stripes, and a few have a white mid-dorsal stripe.

The nose-leaves that give this family its common name are also found in several families of Old World Microchiroptera (e.g., Nycteridae, Rhinolophidae, Hipposideridae, and Mega-dermatidae). All of these bats emit echolocation sounds

A sword-nosed bat (Lonchorhina aurita) hangs from a tree branch. (Photo by Merlin D. Tuttle/Bat Conservation International/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

through their nostrils rather than through their mouths. It is thought that these structures serve as an acoustic lens that focuses the outgoing sound into a narrow beam.

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