High manoeuvring costs force narrow-winged molossid bats to forage in open space

Christian C. Voigt, Marc W. Holderied

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

28 Citations (Scopus)


Molossid bats are specialised aerial-hawkers that, like their diurnal ecological counterparts, swallows and swifts, hunt for insects in open spaces. The long and narrow wings of molossids are considered energetically adapted to fast flight between resource patches, but less suited for manoeuvring in more confined spaces, such as between tree-tops or in forest gaps. To understand whether a potential increase in metabolic costs of manoeuvring excludes molossids from foraging in more confined spaces, we measured energy costs and speed of manoeuvring flight in two tropical molossids, 18 g Molossus currentium and 23 g Molossus sinaloae, when flying in a similar to 500 m(3) hexagonal enclosure (similar to 120 m(2) area), which is of similar dimensions as typical forest gaps. Flight metabolism averaged 10.21 +/- 3.00 and 11.32 +/- 3.54 ml CO2 min(-1), and flight speeds 5.65 +/- 0.47 and 6.27 +/- 0.68 m s(-1) for M. currentium and M. sinaloae respectively. Metabolic rate during flight was higher for the M. currentium than for the similar-sized, but broader-winged frugivore Carollia sowelli, corroborating that broad-winged bats are better adapted to flying in confined spaces. These higher metabolic costs of manoeuvring flight may be caused by having to fly slower than the optimal foraging speed, and by the additional metabolic costs for centripetal acceleration in curves. This may preclude molossids from foraging efficiently between canopy trees or in forest gaps. The surprisingly brief burst of foraging activity at dusk of many molossids might be related to the cooling of the air column after sunset, which drives airborne insects to lower strata. Accordingly, foraging activity of molossids may quickly turn unprofitable when the abundance of insects decreases above the canopy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-424
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology B
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012

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