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Bats and Dolphins Have Similar Genetic Traits that Led to Echolocation

First Posted: Sep 04, 2013 10:16 PM EDT
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Bats and dolphins may look different and even live in different types of habitats, but a new study reveals that they aren't too diverse from each other.

A recent research conducted by scientists at the Queen Mary University of London reveals that these two creatures have a genetic resemblance due to their echolocation capability. Dolphins and bats emit high-pitched sounds that help them locate objects and their distance around them. This ability possessed by both animals show convergent evolution.

According to International Science Times, convergent evolution is the process by which "disparate species develop similar traits independently." When different species live similarly, they develop similar traits.

However, the study published in Nature this week reveals that convergent evolution does not only result in physical similarities, but also in genetic traits.

"Bats and dolphins are not closely related, but both developed the very specialized trait of echolocation independently-it is a typical example of convergent evolution," Design & Trend explained.

According to the official press release issued by Queen Mary University, the scientists carried "one of the largest genome-wide surveys" of its kind, comparing the genome sequences of 22 different mammals - including bats and dolphins - which independently evolved echolocation.

They used a computer especially designed to calculate probabilities of convergent changes, while sifting through millions of genetic codes to finally come up with a conclusion - consistent with their ability to echolocate, bats and bottlenose dolphins also had convergent evolution in genes that were related to hearing and deafness.

"We had expected to find identical changes in maybe a dozen or so genes but to see nearly 200 is incredible," noted Dr. Joe Parker, an evolutionary biologist and the first author on the paper. "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."

CBS News notes that the detailed findings of the research were published on the journal Nature, published today (Sept. 4).

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