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When it comes to bats, size matters
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
A research team led by Syracuse University biologist Scott Pitnick found that in bat species where the females are promiscuous, the males boasting the largest testicles also had the smallest brains. Conversely, where the females were faithful, the males had smaller testes and larger brains.
The study offers evidence that males -- at least in some species -- make an evolutionary trade-off between intelligence and sexual prowess, said David Hoskens, a biologist at the Center for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter in England and a leading authority on bats' mating behavior.
"If female bats mate with more than one male, a sperm competition begins," Pitnick said. "The male who ejaculates the greatest number of sperm wins the game, and hence many bats have evolved outrageously big testes."
Promiscuity is known to make a difference in testicle size in some other mammals. For example, chimpanzees are promiscuous and have testicles that are many times larger than those of gorillas, in which a single dominant male has exclusive access to a harem of females.
Large brains, meanwhile, are metabolically costly to develop and maintain.
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