Navigation Links
Studying bat skulls, evolutionary biologists discover how species evolve
Date:11/23/2011

AMHERST, Mass. A new study involving bat skulls, bite force measurements and scat samples collected by an international team of evolutionary biologists is helping to solve a nagging question of evolution: Why some groups of animals develop scores of different species over time while others evolve only a few. Their findings appear in the current issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

To answer this question, Elizabeth Dumont at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Liliana Dvalos of Stony Brook University together with colleagues at UCLA and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, compiled large amounts of data on the diet, bite force and skull shape in a family of New World bats, and took advantage of new statistical techniques to date and document changes in the rate of evolution of these traits and the number of species over time.

They investigated why there are so many more species of New World Leaf-Nosed bats, nearly 200, while their closest relatives produced only 10 species over the same period of time. Most bats are insect feeders, while the New World Leaf-Nosed bats eat nectar, fruit, frogs, lizards and even blood.

One hypothesis is that the evolution of a trait, such as head shape, that gives access to new resources can lead to the rapid evolution of many new species. As Dumont and Dvalos explain, connecting changes in body structure to an ecological opportunity requires showing that a significant increase in the number of species occurred in tandem with the appearance of new anatomical traits, and that those traits are associated with enhanced resource use.

"If the availability of fruit provided the ecological opportunity that, in the presence of anatomical innovations that allowed eating the fruit, led to a significant increase in the birth of new species, then skull morphology should predict both diet and bite force" they said. They found support for these predictions by analyzing thousands of evolutionary trees of more than 150 species, measuring over 600 individual bat skulls of 85 species, testing bite force in over 500 individual bats from 39 species in the field and examining thousands of scat samples to identify the bats' diets.

They found that the emergence of a new skull shape in New World Leaf-Nosed bats about 15 million years ago led to an explosion of many new bat species. The new shape was a low, broad skull that allowed even small bats to produce the strong bite needed to eat hard fruits. The rate of birth of new species jumped as this new shape evolved, and this group of bats quickly increased the proportion of fruit in their diet. Change in shape slowed once this new skull had evolved.

It can be difficult for evolutionary biologists to demonstrate that traits related to anatomical changes, also called "morphological innovations" such as a new skull shape, give certain groups a survival advantage when new food sources, such as hard fruits, become available.

"This study conducted during the International Year of the Bat offers a clear example of how the evolution of new traits, in this case a skull with a new shape, allowed animals to use new resources and eventually, to rapidly evolve into many new species," Dumont says. "We found that when a new ecological niche opened up with an opportunity for bats that could eat hard fruits, they shifted their diet significantly, which in turn led to the evolution of new species."


'/>"/>
Contact: Janet Lathrop
jlathrop@admin.umass.edu
413-545-0444
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. WSU researchers demonstrate rare animal model for studying depression
2. Method of studying roots rarely used in wetlands improves ecosystem research
3. Finding is a feather in the cap for researchers studying birds big, powerful eyes
4. BC scientists link to European Consortium studying human genome
5. Compound useful for studying birth defects may also have anti-tumor properties
6. Consortium studying mathematical modeling of influenza infection
7. Studying the metabolome of smokers, Lombardi researchers find early signs of damage
8. Studying illnesses caused by worms: Scientists are learning how immune cells communicate
9. Carnegie Mellon receives funding to create new program studying environmental impact of nanotechnology
10. New retrieval method makes studying cancer proteins easier
11. Introducing Robofish: Leading the crowd in studying group dynamics
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Studying bat skulls, evolutionary biologists discover how species evolve
(Date:1/20/2016)... , Jan. 20, 2016  Synaptics Incorporated (NASDAQ: ... interface solutions, today announced sampling of S1423, its ... wearables and small screen applications including smartwatches, fitness ... Supporting round and rectangular shapes, as well as ... performance with moisture on screen, while wearing gloves, ...
(Date:1/13/2016)... 13, 2016 ... of the  "India Biometrics Authentication & ... (2015-2020)"  report to their offering.  ... announced the addition of the  "India ... Estimation & Forecast (2015-2020)"  report ...
(Date:1/8/2016)... -- NXTD ), a company focused on ... privately held leading direct seller of vacation and entertainment ... company announced that on December 31, 2015, that WorldVentures ... to develop a proprietary new wireless smart card for ... unique smart wallet that serves to securely store all ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/4/2016)... Feb. 4, 2016  CytoSorbents Corporation (NASDAQ: ... its flagship CytoSorb® blood filter to treat deadly ... the world, announced that CEO Dr. Phillip ... Source Capital Group,s 2016 Disruptive Growth & Healthcare ... company.  Conference Presentation Details: ...
(Date:2/4/2016)... Md. , Feb. 4, 2016  Spherix Incorporated ... to the fostering and monetization of intellectual property, today ... and Uniden in the Northern District of ... moving forward.  Inter Partes Re-examination ... U.S. Patent Office.  The IPR was initiated on only ...
(Date:2/4/2016)... Brooklyn, NY (PRWEB) , ... February 04, 2016 , ... ... cuvettes for over 10 years. What sets them apart from other cuvette ... that is posted on their website. On top of this steady flow of ...
(Date:2/3/2016)... 2016 Ascendis Pharma A/S (Nasdaq: ASND ... innovative TransCon technology to address significant unmet medical needs, ... conference.Event:2016 Leerink Partners Global Healthcare Conference Location: , ... 10, 2016 Time:  , 11:55am EST ... An audio webcast of this event will be ...
Breaking Biology Technology: