There are approximately
1,100 species of bats. A
new bat family tree, developed
from genetic information,
has shed some light on
the rich evolutionary history
of these flying mammals.
The number of bat species
is about one fifth that of all mammalian species. The scarcity of
bat fossils – likely due to the fragile nature of their tiny bones –
has made it difficult to trace the lineages of this diverse group…
Scientists estimate that approximately 60 percent of the bat fossil
record is missing, but at the National Cancer Institute they
have used bat DNA to fill in some of the gaps.
With their detailed family tree, the biologists contend that many
new species evolved around 50 million years ago, which was also
the time of a significant rise in global temperature and an increase
in plant and insect diversity.
The explosion of bugs and bats at this time was likely not a coincidence.
As flying predators capable of capturing prey on the
wing, they would have had few competitors.
Bats use their hearing to hunt and navigate, but a new study
finds that touch-sensitive receptors on their wings help them
maintain attitude and catch insects in midair.
The touch-receptors work together with echolocation to make
bats better, more accurate nocturnal hunters. Echolocation helps
bats detect their surroundings, while the touch-sensitive receptors
help them maintain a desired flight path and snag prey.