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 August 29, 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 August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Hoping to break the record for world's wooliest, Shaun the sheep came up 10 pounds shy with his fleece weighing over 50 pounds after being shorn for the first time in years. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) Canadian scientists looking into the very first land animals took a fish out of water and forced it to walk. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fake Dogs Scare Real Geese from Wis. Park

Fake Dogs Scare Real Geese from Wis. Park

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Parks officials in Stevens Point, Wisconsin had a fowl problem. Canadian Geese were making a mess of a park, so officials enlisted cardboard versions of man's best friend. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
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