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Making a bat: The developmental basis of bat evolution.

  • Author(s): Sadier, Alexa
  • Urban, Daniel J
  • Anthwal, Neal
  • Howenstine, Aidan O
  • Sinha, Ishani
  • Sears, Karen E
  • et al.

Bats are incredibly diverse, both morphologically and taxonomically. Bats are the only mammalian group to have achieved powered flight, an adaptation that is hypothesized to have allowed them to colonize various and diverse ecological niches. However, the lack of fossils capturing the transition from terrestrial mammal to volant chiropteran has obscured much of our understanding of bat evolution. Over the last 20 years, the emergence of evo-devo in non-model species has started to fill this gap by uncovering some developmental mechanisms at the origin of bat diversification. In this review, we highlight key aspects of studies that have used bats as a model for morphological adaptations, diversification during adaptive radiations, and morphological novelty. To do so, we review current and ongoing studies on bat evolution. We first investigate morphological specialization by reviewing current knowledge about wing and face evolution. Then, we explore the mechanisms behind adaptive diversification in various ecological contexts using vision and dentition. Finally, we highlight the emerging work into morphological novelties using bat wing membranes.

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