Page last updated at 09:03 GMT, Friday, 21 August 2009 10:03 UK

Bizarre-looking bat's strong bite

By Victoria Gill
Science reporter, BBC News

Wrinkle-faced bat (Elizabeth Dumont)
The wrinkle-faced bat looks ferocious but is a "gentle" fruit-eating bat

The wrinkle-faced bat's strangely shaped skull gives it a remarkably strong bite force, say scientists.

Researchers report in the Journal of Zoology that this bizarre-looking bat has evolved a powerful bite that may give it an advantage over other bats.

It allows it to eat a broader range of foods than other small fruit-eaters with weaker bites.

The tiny creature, which weighs just 17g, produces bite forces up to 20% higher than other bats of similar size.

The Centurio senex bat has a extremely short and wide skull, the shape of which has long puzzled evolutionary biologists.

A strong bite may give Centurio senex the edge over other bats

"We found that relative to head size, Centurio generates the strongest bites known for any fruit-eating phyllostomid (or leaf-nosed) bat," explained lead author Elizabeth Dumont from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the US.

They proposed that a shortage of softer fruits during "lean times" may have provided a selective pressure, driving the evolution of its oddly-shaped skull.

"The New World leaf-nosed family of bats exhibits spectacular diversity in diet," explained Professor Dumont.

"Centurio is a dedicated fruit-eater, but the family also contains insect-eaters, nectar-feeders, species that eat small vertebrates - such as lizards, frogs, rodents - and vampire bats.

"Although Centurio looks ferocious, it is a small and gentle animal."

Wrinkle-faced bats (Elizabeth Dumont)
Limited availability of soft food items may have driven the evolution of a powerful bite



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