Embryonic evidence uncovers convergent origins of laryngeal echolocation in bats

Taro Nojiri, Laura A.B. Wilson, Camilo López-Aguirre, Vuong Tan Tu, Shigeru Kuratani, Kai Ito, Hiroki Higashiyama, Nguyen Truong Son, Dai Fukui, Alexa Sadier, Karen E. Sears, Hideki Endo, Satoshi Kamihori, Daisuke Koyabu*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    26 Citations (Scopus)


    Bats are the second-most speciose group of mammals, comprising 20% of species diversity today. Their global explosion, representing one of the greatest adaptive radiations in mammalian history, is largely attributed to their ability of laryngeal echolocation and powered flight, which enabled them to conquer the night sky, a vast and hitherto unoccupied ecological niche. While there is consensus that powered flight evolved only once in the lineage, whether laryngeal echolocation has a single origin in bats or evolved multiple times independently remains disputed. Here, we present developmental evidence in support of laryngeal echolocation having multiple origins in bats. This is consistent with a non-echolocating bat ancestor and independent gain of echolocation in Yinpterochiroptera and Yangochiroptera, as well as the gain of primitive echolocation in the bat ancestor, followed by convergent evolution of laryngeal echolocation in Yinpterochiroptera and Yangochiroptera, with loss of primitive echolocation in pteropodids. Our comparative embryological investigations found that there is no developmental difference in the hearing apparatus between non-laryngeal echolocating bats (pteropodids) and terrestrial non-bat mammals. In contrast, the echolocation system is developed heterotopically and heterochronically in the two phylogenetically distant laryngeal echolocating bats (rhinolophoids and yangochiropterans), providing the first embryological evidence that the echolocation system evolved independently in these bats.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1353-1365.e3
    JournalCurrent Biology
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2021


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