Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Molecular Evolution Is Echoed In Bat Ears

Date:
September 4, 2008
Source:
University of Bristol
Summary:
Echolocation may have evolved more than once in bats, according to new research from the University of Bristol.

The big-eared horseshoe bat, Rhinolophus macrotis.
Credit: Photo by Professor Gareth Jones

Echolocation may have evolved more than once in bats, according to new research from the University of Bristol.

Professor Gareth Jones of the University of Bristol and Dr Stephen Rossiter of Queen Mary University of London, in collaboration with colleagues from East China Normal University in Shanghai, investigated the evolution of a gene called Prestin in echolocating bats – mammals with the most sensitive hearing at high frequencies.

Prestin codes for a protein of the outer hair cells – the tiny structures in the inner ear that help to give mammals their sensitive hearing. Important mutations occurred during the emergence of mammals that led to the evolution of Prestin from similar proteins. Since mammals evolved, it has been argued that the Prestin gene has changed little.

The researchers studied the Prestin DNA sequence in a range of echolocating bats and fruit bats, which do not echolocate. They found that parts of the gene appear to have evolved to be similar in the distantly related echolocating species. Furthermore, they could not find any evidence of genetic changes in the Prestin of fruit bats that might be expected from a loss of high frequency hearing.

If Prestin does indeed help bats to hear their high-pitched echoes, then these results appear to support the idea that echolocation has evolved more than once in bats. This apparent independent evolution of a trait in distant relatives is known as convergence, a term that is more commonly used to describe the physical features of species that live in similar habitats and face similar selection pressures, such as the spines of hedgehogs and porcupines. Examples of convergence at a molecular level are very rare.

Professor Jones and Dr Rossiter said: “If hearing were an Olympic event, echolocating bats would be strong medal contenders. Their ears are tuned to higher sound frequencies than those of any other mammals because they need to listen to the returning echoes of their ultra-sonic calls.

“In recent years, scientists have discovered the curious fact that echolocating bats do not all group together in the evolutionary tree of life, but instead, some are more related to their non-echolocating cousins, the fruit bats. This has raised the question of whether echolocation in bats has evolved more than once, or whether the fruit bats lost their ability to echolocate.

“Evolutionary biologists have long appreciated that morphological similarities may not reflect evolutionary affinities among animals because of convergent evolution – similar lifestyles can cause distantly related animals to resemble one another when they occupy similar environments because natural selection will favour similar outcomes.

“Now the same seems to be true for gene sequences – the need to echolocate can cause genes to converge in their structure. Our study suggests that scientists should be cautious when inferring evolutionary relationships from genes that may be involved in important functions and, therefore, could be shaped by convergent evolution .”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Bristol. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Gang Li, Jinhong Wang, Stephen J. Rossiter, Gareth Jones, James A. Cotton, and Shuyi Zhang. The hearing gene Prestin reunites echolocating bats. PNAS, (in press)

Cite This Page:

University of Bristol. "Molecular Evolution Is Echoed In Bat Ears." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 September 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080904102756.htm>.
University of Bristol. (2008, September 4). Molecular Evolution Is Echoed In Bat Ears. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080904102756.htm
University of Bristol. "Molecular Evolution Is Echoed In Bat Ears." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080904102756.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) The South's tobacco country is surviving, and even thriving in some cases, as demand overseas keeps growers in the fields of one of America's oldest cash crops. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Scientists say a female colossal squid weighing an estimated 350 kilograms (770 lbs) and thought to be only the second intact specimen ever found was carrying eggs when discovered in the Antarctic. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Since the arrival of Ebola in Ivory Coast, Ivorians have been abandoning their pets, particularly monkeys, in the fear that they may transmit the virus. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins