The Santana Lab investigates the relationships among morphology, behavior, performance, and ecology; we are comparing the skulls of two species of bat using high-detail 3D computer models. This study further enhances our understanding of these relationships, and applies Finite Element Analysis (FEA) techniques in biology. FEA has been used in other fields, notably engineering and orthopedic science, but is relatively new to biology.
Noctilio leporinus (the greater bulldog bat) eats mostly fish, while its sister species Noctilio albiventris (the lesser bulldog bat) eats mostly insects. Our hypothesis is that the greater bulldog bat may be anatomically adapted to its fish diet; compared to eating insects, cracking bones imposes greater bite force and skull strength demands on the feeding apparatus. Although N. leporinus is larger than N. albiventris, we can use computer analyses to remove the effects of size and compare the skull performance of these two species as they process different types of food.
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