When functionally similar species co-occur, they are expected to differ in at least 1 niche axis to avoid competition. In bats, small differences in body size can influence ecology, potentially reducing niche overlap. We used yellowshouldered bats (genus Sturnira) in Mexico as a model to investigate whether interspecific differences in body size increase when 2 related and ecologically similar species occur in sympatry. We hypothesized that size divergence would take place in sympatry, following known patterns whereby larger bats eat larger fruits and smaller bats forage and roost in more cluttered habitats. We collected data on body mass, forearm length, and skull size from museum specimens to characterize the overall dimensions of these bats. Using linear mixed effect models and permutation tests, we tested for differences between areas where these species occur in sympatry or allopatry, while controlling for the confounding effect of environmental variables and sexual dimorphism. Contrary to our original hypothesis, we detected size convergence in sympatric areas, an uncommon pattern in bats. We found no evidence of character displacement for forearm length and body mass, but an effect of co-occurrence on overall skull size and head length. Convergence in overall skull dimensions may reflect shared environmental pressures and similar food resources, which may not represent a limiting factor. Interspecific differences in forearm length remain constant in sympatry or allopatry. These differences likely preceded the 2 species coming into contact and could have allowed initial and ongoing coexistence by influencing wing properties and flight. We highlight the need for multivariate approaches in the study of character displacement, as selective pressures can act differently on different traits allowing both local adaptation and coexistence.
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Vol. 99 • No. 5