This thesis investigates tongue and hair morphology as a tool for determining niche partitioning through relationships with feeding capability and foraging behaviour in a sympatric community of 12 Pteropodidae (Megachiroptera) in a disturbed habitat on the island of New Britain, Papua New Guinea. The ability of Pteropodidae to colonise, radiate and utilise island resources is reflected in high levels of diversity and endemism on South West Pacific Islands. Though constrained morphologically and energetically by demands of flight, tongue structural variations have enabled this community to exploit similar or shared resources with varying efficiencies allowing some overlap of feeding niches and extreme specialisation in others, in part facilitating the diversity and sympatry of New Britain Island Pteropodidae.
No detailed ecological studies are published on the New Britain Pteropodidae Community, and little published information documents their natural history. Structural differences in tongue morphology of gross shape and papilla arrangement and distribution, strongly relate to observed and the few feeding and foraging patterns published for this community. The importance of tongue structure lies not only in facilitation of initial food acquisition but also in processing and reduction proceding this. Though much dietary overlap is reported within Pteropodidae, separation of feeding niches in sympatric species can be determined through tongue ecomorphology based on variations in efficiency of food collection and processing reflected in papillae structural adaptations. Combined with spatial and temporal differences in habitat utilisation, the New Britain Island Pteropodidae Community exists with some degree of dietary overlap in part reflected by tongue morphology. Though previously reported in some Chiroptera, hair scalation morphology in this Pteropodidae Community does not demonstrate structural adaptation related to diet through divergence of hair scales to enhance pollen collection capabilities and does not correlate with feeding preferences as do tongue and papillae anatomy. Functions of olfactory social communication can be related to hair scale divergence through scent sebum retention capability, this can be linked to differing levels of social interaction reflected in roosting behaviour that intern metabolically and energetically impact on foraging behaviour, linking hair scale divergence to feeding preferences in a via a different route.