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

Print Sponsor

Bats avoid flying by streetlight
19 Jun 09 |  Science & Environment
Bats 'recognise others' voices'
05 Jun 09 |  Science & Environment
Bat fossil solves evolution poser
13 Feb 08 |  Science & Environment

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific