Hard to believe but scientists say human’s enemy ‘bats’ and human’s friend ‘dolphins’ share similar genetic composition.
According to the researchers, both the mammals may live in radically different worlds, but the fact they both evolved a type of sonar means they resemble each other genetically.
The researchers at the Queen Mary University of London say when different species live similar lives they often evolve similar traits. This phenomenon is known as convergent evolution. During the study the scientists found that convergent evolution not only caused species to resemble each other at the physical level, but also influenced them genetically.
To find out how great this effect was, researchers analyzed genes in animals that independently developed echolocation, the ability to scan the world using sound. Echolocation is a complex physical trait involving the generation and reception of ultrasonic pulses, as well as brain activity to process these signals.
Echolocation evolved separately in bats and dolphins, helping these animals hunt prey and avoid obstacles.
The scientists analyzed more than 2,300 genes in 22 mammals. These included the bottlenose dolphin, four species of echolocating bats, such as the greater false vampire bat and Parnell’s mustached bat, and two species of nonecholocating bats, the large flying fox and the straw-colored fruit bat.
At the surprise for the researchers, they discovered genetic signatures to be consistent in both dolphins and echolocating bats. These similarities were not seen with non-echolocating animals.
“We didn’t expect to see more than perhaps 10 to 30 genes converge, probably mainly hearing-related ones,” researcher Joe Parker, an evolutionary biologist at Queen Mary University of London, told LiveScience. “Instead, we were able to detect many times that number.”
The scientists detailed their findings online Sept. 4 in the journal Nature.