Clinal variation in body size and sexual dimorphism in an Indian fruit bat, Cynopterus sphinx (Chiroptera: Pteropodidae)

Jay F. Storz, J. Balasingh, Hari R. Bhat, Thiruchenthil P. Nathan, Paramanantha D. Swami Doss, Antony A. Prakash, Thomas H. Kunz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Geographic variation in body size and sexual dimorphism of the short-nosed fruit bat (Cynopterus sphinx) was investigated in peninsular India. Bats were sampled at 12 localities along a 1200km latitudinal transect that paralleled the eastern flanks of the Western Ghats. The geographic pattern of variation in external morphology of C. sphinx conforms to the predictions of Bergmann's Rule, as indicated by a steep, monotonic cline of increasing body size from south to north. This study represents one of the first conclusively documented examples of Bergmann's Rule in a tropical mammal and confirms that latitudinal clines in body size are not exclusively restricted to temperate zone homeotherms. Body size was indexed by a multivariate axis derived from principal components analysis of linear measurements that summarize body and wing dimensions. Additionally, length of forearm was used as a univariate index of structural size to examine geographic variation in a more inclusive sample of bats across the latitudinal transect. Multivariate and univariate size metrics were strongly and positively correlated with body mass, and exhibited highly concordant patterns of clinal variation. Stepwise multiple regression on climatological variables revealed that increasing size of male and female C. sphinx was associated with decreasing minimum temperature, increasing relative humidity, and increasing seasonality. Although patterns of geographic size variation were highly concordant between the sexes, C. sphinx also exhibited a latitudinal cline in the magnitude and direction of sexual size dimorphism. The size differential reversed direction across the latitudinal gradient, as males averaged larger in the north, and females averaged larger in the south. The degree of female-biased size dimorphism across the transect was negatively correlated with body size of both sexes. Canonical discriminant analysis revealed that male- and female-biased size dimorphism were based on contrasting sets of external characters. Available data on geographic variation in the degree of polygyny in C. sphinx suggests that sexual selection on male size may play a role in determining the geographic pattern of sexual size dimorphism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-31
Number of pages15
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Bergmann's Rule
  • Chiroptera
  • Geographic variation
  • India
  • Morphological variation
  • Pteropodidae
  • Sexual selection
  • Western Ghats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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