Dolphins, Bats Underwent Same Genetic Changes That Led To Echolocation Abilities [STUDY]

By Philip Ross on September 4, 2013 5:38 PM EDT

dolphins
Dolphins use echolocation to locate objects around them. (Photo: Creative Commons)
dolphins
Bats use echolocation to hunt prey in the dark. (Photo: Creative Commons)

Dolphins and bats both use echolocation to locate objects around them. While the process of convergent evolution, by which disparate species develop similar traits independently, is well-documented, new research sheds light on the genetic changes experienced by both dolphins and bats that led them using echolocation.

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Researchers from the Queen Mary University of London found that both species underwent many of the same genetic changes to develop the ability to echolocate. According to International Business Times, the team of scientists compared the complete genetic sequences of 22 different kinds of mammals, including bats, horses, dogs, mice and dolphins. They discovered 200 genomic regions where the bat and dolphin adaptations that led to echolocation corresponded.

"We had expected to find identical changes in maybe a dozen or so genes but to see [changes in] nearly 200 is incredible," lead author Joe Parker said in a statement. "We know natural selection is a potent driver of gene sequence evolution, but identifying so many examples where it produces nearly identical results in the genetic sequences of totally unrelated animals is astonishing."

"These results could be the tip of the iceberg," group leader Dr. Stephen Rossiter added. "As the genomes of more species are sequenced and studied, we may well see other striking cases of convergent adaptations being driven by identical genetic changes."

Their findings were published today in the online journal Nature.

Read more from iScience Times:

Dolphin Social Memories: Dolphins Remember Friends' Unique Whistles After Decades Of Separation [STUDY]

Bats And Oral Sex: Watch Male Bats In India Perform Oral Sex On Females As Foreplay [VIDEO]

Dolphin Names: Bottlenose Dolphins Use 'Signature Whistles' To Call Each Other By Name [STUDY]

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