Biological correlates of extinction risk in bats

Am Nat. 2003 Apr;161(4):601-14. doi: 10.1086/368289. Epub 2003 Mar 28.


We investigated patterns and processes of extinction and threat in bats using a multivariate phylogenetic comparative approach. Of nearly 1,000 species worldwide, 239 are considered threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and 12 are extinct. Small geographic ranges and low wing aspect ratios are independently found to predict extinction risk in bats, which explains 48% of the total variance in IUCN assessments of threat. The pattern and correlates of extinction risk in the two bat suborders are significantly different. A higher proportion (4%) of megachiropteran species have gone extinct in the last 500 years than microchiropteran bats (0.3%), and a higher proportion is currently at risk of extinction (Megachiroptera: 34%; Microchiroptera: 22%). While correlates of microchiropteran extinction risk are the same as in the order as a whole, megachiropteran extinction is correlated more with reproductive rate and less with wing morphology. Bat extinction risk is not randomly distributed phylogenetically: closely related species have more similar levels of threat than would be expected if extinction risk were random. Given the unbalanced nature of the evolutionary diversification of bats, it is probable that the amount of phylogenetic diversity lost if currently threatened taxa disappear may be greater than in other clades with numerically more threatened species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Body Weight
  • Chiroptera / classification
  • Chiroptera / physiology*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Models, Biological
  • Phylogeny
  • Reproduction
  • Risk
  • Species Specificity