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Testing competitive exclusion in birds, bats and pterosaurs



1: J Evol Biol. 2007 May;20(3):1230-6.  
A morphospace-based test for competitive exclusion
among flying vertebrates: did birds, bats and
pterosaurs get in each other's space?
McGowan AJ, Dyke GJ. 
Department of Palaeontology, Natural History Museum,
London, UK.

Three vertebrate groups - birds, bats and pterosaurs -
have evolved flapping flight over the past 200 million
years. This innovation allowed each clade access to
new ecological opportunities, but did the
diversification of one of these groups inhibit the
evolutionary radiation of any of the others? A related
question is whether having the wing attached to the
hindlimbs in bats and pterosaurs constrained their
morphological diversity relative to birds. Fore- and
hindlimb measurements from 894 specimens were used to
construct a morphospace to assess morphological
overlap and range, a possible indicator of
competition, among the three clades. Neither birds nor
bats entered pterosaur morphospace across the
Cretaceous-Paleogene (Tertiary) extinction. Bats plot
in a separate area from birds, and have a
significantly smaller morphological range than either
birds or pterosaurs. On the basis of these results,
competitive exclusion among the three groups is not
supported.