Echolocation and bat evolution–new study


Did you all catch word of this new study? I wish there were pictures with this article. Maybe someone has interest in contacting the researchers to see if they have visuals they would be willing to share?

If you search Facebook for emma teeling bat research, you get lots of links to talks and some images, etc. Not specific to Brazilian free-tailed bats, but about the cutting edge of genetic research on bats.

Bats without sonar shed light on evolution of echolocation

Bats are perhaps best known for their sophisticated use of sound: Like a ship’s sonar, the flying mammals make high-pitched noises and listen for returning echoes to navigate and hunt, an ability known as echolocation. But one family—the fruit bats—doesn’t use this sort of advanced tracking. Now, a new study suggests that all bats were once able to echolocate in this fashion, providing new evidence in a decades-long debate and shedding light on the origins of bat sonar.

Evolutionary biologists have long been divided over how bats developed their sonar. Fruit bats are closely related to a group of bats that are expert echolocators. Some say this means that advanced echolocation evolved once; an ancient bat developed the ability and passed it on to successive bat species, but fruit bats lost it along the way. Others argue that advanced echolocation evolved twice—once in an ancient ancestor bat, and again in the close relatives of fruit bats—and that fruit bats never had it.

Scientists have tried settling the question by looking for hard-to-find fossils of ancient bats, and by examining the genes of modern bats for clues about their past lifestyle. But Emma Teeling, an evolutionary biologist at University College Dublin, and colleagues from Shenyang Agricultural University in China, looked at a different window into the past: modern bat ears.