Bruce D. Patterson

I study the diversification, distribution and conservation of mammals. The breadth of my research is testimony to the facts that interesting biological questions are never fully answered--instead, a number of related ones appears. Over time, curiosity and opportunity have diversified my research program and caused it to span many taxa and two continents. I'm not complaining though!

← Map of density of terrestrial vertebrate species. Still wonder why I study tropical animals? (from savingspecies.org)

For decades now, I have used museum specimens to study the systematics and biogeography of Neotropical mammals. Collaborating with scientists and students in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, I have worked throughout the Andes, Amazônia, and in Atlantic, Valdivian, and Magellanic Forests. As we document some of the world's richest, most highly endemic faunas, we regularly discover and describe new species of bats, rodents and marsupials, and use them in regional and continental reconstructions of phylogeny and biogeography. This program has abundant training opportunities for American and Latin American students, both in the lab and in the field. Much of my recent work on Neotropical faunas has been in collaboration with former students Paúl Velazco, Nate Upham, and Renan Maestri, among others.

Spatial variation in sigmodontine rodent skull shape, research led by Renan Maestri →

Since 2011, I have also been working on a parallel long-term project, The Bats of Kenya, with colleagues Paul Webala, Terry Demos, Carl Dick, and Holly Lutz. This project is designed to document the distribution and status of more than 110 species of bats known from Kenya and to shed light on their current status and ecological roles. Preliminary surveys of Afrotropical Rhinolophus (Rhinolophidae), Nycteris (Nycteridae), Otomops (Molossidae), Miniopterus (Miniopteridae), Scotophilus and Myotis (Vespertilionidae) all show that the diversity of bats in East Africa is grossly underestimated and includes many cryptic lineages in need of systematic attention. We are well advanced now in parallel studies of species delimitation in the genera Doryrhina, Macronycteris, Hipposideros, and Triaenops. This phylogenetic work lays the groundwork for integrative taxonomic revisions of these taxa.

← A yellow-winged bat (Lavia frons) captured in Tsavo West N.P., Kenya

Collecting parasites in the course of this work led to my interest in Host-parasite coevolution. Ectoparasites recovered from mammals (mainly bats) are used to reconstruct the radiation of parasite groups and to assess their distributions across hosts and geography. These studies identify factors governing the distribution, abundance, and host specificity of parasites. Together with Carl Dick (Western Kentucky U.), Katharina Dittmar (SUNY Buffalo and NSF), and Megan Porter (U. Hawaii at Manoa), we are pursuing a broad range of studies on the ecology, coevolution, and phylogeny of these interesting flies. Current Postdoc Holly Lutz's program looking at endosymbionts and microbiomes have greatly expanded the scope of my interests.

A Hipposideros bat with an ectoparasitic Penicillidia bat fly →

A research program that I have largely concluded focused on the Tsavo lions, infamous as man-eaters a century ago but more remarkable I think because many of them lack manes. In a series of papers, I have explored the morphology, genetics, behavior, and ecology of lions in SE Kenya with Samuel Kasiki (Kenya Wildlife Service) and Alex Mwazo (Tsavo East), Jean Dubach (Loyola University), Roland Kays (NC State) and others. Our principal aim has been to understand the ecology of this distinctive woodland lion population and gather information to mitigate the impacts of its depredations on livestock. From 2002-2009, this project had the help of >500 volunteers from 40 countries through the Earthwatch Institute. Ongoing work has focused on studies of the Field Museum's famous man-eaters, including recent work on their teeth with Larisa DeSantis, as well as studies of lion phylogeography with various colleagues, including Laura Bertola.

← Traquilizing lions in Tsavo, Kenya (July 2007). Photo by B. A. Harney

As detailed in Training, interactions with undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdocs enrich, extend, and complement these studies. Each research arena offers opportunities for student research projects and post-graduate collaborations alike.


Dr. B.D. Patterson, MacArthur Curator of Mammals, Integrative Research Center, Field Museum of Natural History, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr, Chicago IL 60605-2496 USA, bpatterson[at]fieldmuseum.org, Tel: 001.312.665.7750, Fax: 001.312.665.7754