The role of gene duplication in generating new genes and novel functions is well recognized and is exemplified by the digestion-related protein lysozyme. In ruminants, duplicated chicken-type lysozymes facilitate the degradation of symbiotic bacteria in the foregut. Chicken-type lysozyme has also been reported to show chitinase-like activity, yet no study has examined the molecular evolution of lysozymes in species that specialize on eating insects. Insectivorous bats number over 900 species, and lysozyme expression in the mouths of some of these species is associated with the ingestion of insect cuticle, suggesting a chitinase role. Here, we show that chicken-type lysozyme has undergone multiple duplication events in a major family of insect-eating bats (Vespertilionidae) and that new duplicates have undergone molecular adaptation. Examination of duplicates from two insectivorous bats-Pipistrellus abramus and Scotophilus kuhlii-indicated that the new copy was highly expressed in the tongue, whereas the other one was less tissue-specific. Functional assays applied to pipistrelle lysozymes confirmed that, of the two copies, the tongue duplicate was more efficient at breaking down glycol chitin, a chitin derivative. These results suggest that the evolution of lysozymes in vespertilionid bats has likely been driven in part by natural selection for insectivory.
Phylogeographic reconstructions of codistributed taxa can help reveal the interplay between abiotic factors, such as altitude and climate, and species-specific attributes, in shaping patterns of population genetic structure. Recent studies also demonstrate the value of both rangewide sampling and species distribution modelling (SDM) in comparative phylogeography. Here, we combine these approaches to study the population histories of four phylogenetically related forest-dependent bat species. All are endemic to the mountainous island of Taiwan but show differences in their tolerance to altitude, with Murina gracilis considered to be a high-altitude specialist, M. recondita and Kerivoula sp. low-altitude specialists, and M. puta an altitudinal generalist. We tested the prediction that contrasting habitat preferences would impact on patterns of past and contemporary gene flow and found broad concordance between the results of population genetic analyses and species distribution models based on the Model for Interdisciplinary Research on Climate. Both lowland species showed evidence of genetic divergence between the east and west of the island, consistent with SDMs that indicated the Central Mountain Range (CMR) has presented a long-term and continuous barrier to gene flow since before the Last Glacial Maximum. In contrast, Murina gracilis and M. puta showed lower degrees of historical isolation and genetic differentiation associated with the CMR, reflecting greater gene flow, possibly coupled with past population growth in M. puta. Together our results highlight the usefulness of combining distribution models with phylogeographic analyses to understand the drivers of genetic structure.
Taste receptor genes are functionally important in animals, with a surprising exception in the bottlenose dolphin, which shows extensive losses of sweet, umami, and bitter taste receptor genes. To examine the generality of taste gene loss, we examined seven toothed whales and five baleen whales and sequenced the complete repertoire of three sweet/umami (T1Rs) and ten bitter (T2Rs) taste receptor genes. We found all amplified T1Rs and T2Rs to be pseudogenes in all 12 whales, with a shared premature stop codon in 10 of the 13 genes, which demonstrated massive losses of taste receptor genes in the common ancestor of whales. Furthermore, we analyzed three genome sequences from two toothed whales and one baleen whale and found that the sour taste marker gene Pkd2l1 is a pseudogene, whereas the candidate salty taste receptor genes are intact and putatively functional. Additionally, we examined three genes that are responsible for taste signal transduction and found the relaxation of functional constraints on taste signaling pathways along the ancestral branch leading to whales. Together, our results strongly suggest extensive losses of sweet, umami, bitter, and sour tastes in whales, and the relaxation of taste function most likely arose in the common ancestor of whales between 36 and 53 Ma. Therefore, whales represent the first animal group to lack four of five primary tastes, probably driven by the marine environment with high concentration of sodium, the feeding behavior of swallowing prey whole, and the dietary switch from plants to meat in the whale ancestor.
Mammals typically display a robust positive relationship between lifespan and body size. Two groups that deviate markedly from this pattern are bats and African mole-rats, with members of both groups being extremely long-lived given their body size, with the maximum documented lifespan for many species exceeding 20 years. A recent genomics study of the exceptionally long-lived Brandt's bat, Myotis brandtii (41 years), suggested that its longevity and small body size may be at least partly attributed to key amino acid substitutions in the transmembrane domains of the receptors of growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1). However, whereas elevated longevity is likely to be common across all 19 bat families, the reported amino acid substitutions were only observed in two closely related bat families. To test the hypothesis that an altered GH/IGF1 axis relates to the longevity of African mole-rats and bats, we compared and analysed the homologous coding gene sequences in genomic and transcriptomic data from 26 bat species, five mole-rats and 38 outgroup species. Phylogenetic analyses of both genes recovered the majority of nodes in the currently accepted species tree with high support. Compared to other clades, such as primates and carnivores, the bats and rodents had longer branch lengths. The single 24 amino acid transmembrane domain of IGF1R was found to be more conserved across mammals compared to that of GHR. Within bats, considerable variation in the transmembrane domain of GHR was found, including a previously unreported deletion in Emballonuridae. The transmembrane domains of rodents were found to be more conserved, with mole-rats lacking uniquely conserved amino acid substitutions. Molecular evolutionary analyses showed that both genes were under purifying selection in bats and mole-rats. Our findings suggest that while the previously documented mutations may confer some additional lifespan to Myotis bats, other, as yet unknown, genetic differences are likely to account for the long lifespans observed in many bat and mole-rat species.
Hybrid zones formed by the secondary contact of divergent lineages represent natural laboratories for studying the genetic basis of speciation. Here we tested for patterns of differential introgression among three X-linked and 11 autosomal regions to identify candidate loci related to either reproductive isolation or adaptive introgression across a hybrid zone between two Chinese mainland subspecies of the intermediate horseshoe bat Rhinolophus affinis: R. a. himalayanus and R. a. macrurus.
The utility and reliability of mitochondrial DNA sequences in phylogenetic and phylogeographic studies may be compromised by widespread and undetected nuclear mitochondrial copies (numts) as well as heteroplasmy within individuals. Both numts and heteroplasmy are likely to be common across diverse taxa yet few studies have characterised their frequencies and variation at the intra-specific level. Here we report the presence of both numts and heteroplasmy in the mitochondrial control region of the Chinese horseshoe bat Rhinolophus sinicus. In total we generated 123 sequences from 18 bats, which contained two different numt clades (i.e. Numt-1 and Numt-2) and one mtDNA clade. The sequence divergence between Numt-1 and Numt-2 was 16.8% and each numt type was found in all four R. sinicus taxa, suggesting either two ancient translocations of mitochondrial DNA into the nucleus from the same source taxon, or a single translocation from different source taxa that occurred before the split of R. sinicus into different lineages. Within the mtDNA clade, phylogenetic relationships among the four taxa of R. sinicus were similar to those seen in previous results. Based on PCR comparisons, heteroplasmy was inferred between almost all individuals of R. sinicus with respect to sequence variation. Consistent with introgression of mtDNA between Central sinicus and septentrionalis, individuals from these two taxa exhibited similar signatures of repeated sequences in the control region. Our study highlights the importance of testing for the presence of numts and heteroplasmy when applying mtDNA markers to phylogenetic studies.
An individual's reproductive success will depend on traits that increase access to mates, as well as the number of mates available. In most well-studied mammals, males are the larger sex, and body size often increases success in intra-sexual contests and thus paternity. In comparison, the determinants of male success in species with reversed sexual size dimorphism (RSD) are less well understood. Greater horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) exhibit RSD and females appear to exert mate choice when they visit and copulate with males in their underground territories. Here we assessed putative determinants of reproductive success in a colony of greater horseshoe bats during a 19-year period of rapid population growth. We genotyped 1080 bats with up to 40 microsatellite loci and assigned maternity to 99.5% of pups, and paternity to 76.8% of pups. We found that in spite of RSD, paternity success correlated positively with male size, and, consistent with our previous findings, also with age. Female reproductive success, which has not previously been studied in this population, was also age-related and correlated positively with individual heterozygosity, but not with body size. Remarkable male reproductive skew was detected that initially increased steadily with population size, possibly coinciding with the saturation of suitable territories, but then levelled off suggesting an upper limit to a male's number of partners. Our results illustrate that RSD can occur alongside intense male sexual competition, that male breeding success is density-dependent, and that male and female greater horseshoe bats are subject to different selective pressures.
Molecular phylogenetics has rapidly established the evolutionary positions of most major mammal groups [1, 2], yet analyses have repeatedly failed to agree on that of bats (order Chiroptera) [3-6]. Moreover, the relationship among the major bat lineages has proven equally contentious, with ongoing disagreements about whether echolocating bats are paraphyletic [7-9] or a true group  having profound implications for whether echolocation evolved once or possibly multiple times. By generating new bat genome data and applying model-based phylogenomic analyses designed to accommodate heterogeneous evolutionary processes [4, 11], we show that-contrary to recent suggestions-bats are not closely related to odd-toed ungulates but instead have a more ancient origin as sister group to a large clade of carnivores, ungulates, and cetaceans. Additionally, we provide the first genome-scale support showing that laryngeal echolocating bats are not a true group and that this paraphyly is robust to their position within mammals. We suggest that earlier disagreements in the literature may reflect model misspecification, long-branch artifacts, poor taxonomic coverage, and differences in the phylogenetic markers used. These findings are a timely reminder of the relevance of experimental design and careful statistical analysis as we move into the phylogenomic era.
The demographic history of Rhinolophus hipposideros (lesser horseshoe bat) was reconstructed across its European, North African and Middle-Eastern distribution prior to, during and following the most recent glaciations by generating and analysing a multimarker data set. This data set consisted of an X-linked nuclear intron (Bgn; 543 bp), mitochondrial DNA (cytb-tRNA-control region; 1630 bp) and eight variable microsatellite loci for up to 373 individuals from 86 localities. Using this data set of diverse markers, it was possible to determine the species demography at three temporal stages. Nuclear intron data revealed early colonization into Europe from the east, which pre-dates the Quaternary glaciations. The mtDNA data supported multiple glacial refugia across the Mediterranean, the largest of which were found in the Ibero-Maghreb region and an eastern location (Anatolia/Middle East)-that were used by R. hipposideros during the most recent glacial cycles. Finally, microsatellites provided the most recent information on these species movements since the Last Glacial Maximum and suggested that lineages that had diverged into glacial refugia, such as in the Ibero-Maghreb region, have remained isolated. These findings should be used to inform future conservation management strategies for R. hipposideros and show the power of using a multimarker data set for phylogeographic studies.
Hereditary deafness affects 0.1% of individuals globally and is considered as one of the most debilitating diseases of man. Despite recent advances, the molecular basis of normal auditory function is not fully understood and little is known about the contribution of single-nucleotide variations to the disease. Using cross-species comparisons of 11 deafness genes (Myo15, Ush1 g, Strc, Tecta, Tectb, Otog, Col11a2, Gjb2, Cldn14, Kcnq4, Pou3f4) across 69 evolutionary and ecologically divergent mammals, we elucidated whether there was evidence for: (i) adaptive evolution acting on these genes across mammals with similar hearing capabilities; and, (ii) regions of long-term evolutionary conservation within which we predict disease-associated mutations should occur. We find evidence of adaptive evolution acting on the eutherian mammals in Myo15, Otog and Tecta. Examination of selection pressures in Tecta and Pou3f4 across a taxonomic sample that included a wide representation of auditory specialists, the bats, did not uncover any evidence for a role in echolocation. We generated conservation indices based on selection estimates at nucleotide sites and found that known disease mutations fall within sites of high evolutionary conservation. We suggest that methods such as this, derived from estimates of evolutionary conservation using phylogenetically divergent taxa, will help to differentiate between deleterious and benign mutations.
Toothed whales and bats have independently evolved specialized ultrasonic hearing for echolocation. Recent findings have suggested that several genes including Prestin, Tmc1, Pjvk and KCNQ4 appear to have undergone molecular adaptations associated with the evolution of this ultrasonic hearing in mammals. Here we studied the hearing gene Cldn14, which encodes the claudin-14 protein and is a member of tight junction proteins that functions in the organ of Corti in the inner ear to maintain a cationic gradient between endolymph and perilymph. Particular mutations in human claudin-14 give rise to non-syndromic deafness, suggesting an essential role in hearing. Our results uncovered two bursts of positive selection, one in the ancestral branch of all toothed whales and a second in the branch leading to the delphinid, phocoenid and ziphiid whales. These two branches are the same as those previously reported to show positive selection in the Prestin gene. Furthermore, as with Prestin, the estimated hearing frequencies of whales significantly correlate with numbers of branch-wise non-synonymous substitutions in Cldn14, but not with synonymous changes. However, in contrast to Prestin, we found no evidence of positive selection in bats. Our findings from Cldn14, and comparisons with Prestin, strongly implicate multiple loci in the acquisition of echolocation in cetaceans, but also highlight possible differences in the evolutionary route to echolocation taken by whales and bats.
Pancreatic ribonuclease gene (RNASE1) was previously shown to have undergone duplication and adaptive evolution related to digestive efficiency in several mammalian groups that have evolved foregut fermentation, including ruminants and some primates. RNASE1 gene duplications thought to be linked to diet have also been recorded in some carnivores. Of all mammals, bats have evolved the most diverse dietary specializations, mainly including frugivory and insectivory. Here we cloned, sequenced and analyzed RNASE1 gene sequences from a range of bat species to determine whether their dietary adaptation is mirrored by molecular adaptation. We found that seven insect-eating members of the families Vespertilionidae and Molossidae possessed two or more duplicates, and we also detected three pseudogenes. Reconstructed RNASE1 gene trees based on both Bayesian and maximum likelihood methods supported independent duplication events in these two families. Selection tests revealed that RNASE1 gene duplicates have undergone episodes of positive selection indicative of functional modification, and lineage-specific tests revealed strong adaptive evolution in the Tadarida ? clade. However, unlike the RNASE1 duplicates that function in digestion in some mammals, the bat RNASE1 sequences were found to be characterized by relatively high isoelectric points, a feature previously suggested to promote defense against viruses via the breakdown of double-stranded RNA. Taken together, our findings point to an adaptive diversification of RNASE1 in these two bat families, although we find no clear evidence that this was driven by diet. Future experimental assays are needed to resolve the functions of these enzymes in bats.
The straw-coloured fruit bat, Eidolon helvum, is Africas most widely distributed and commonly hunted fruit bat, often living in close proximity to human populations. This species has been identified as a reservoir of potentially zoonotic viruses, but uncertainties remain regarding viral transmission dynamics and mechanisms of persistence. Here we combine genetic and serological analyses of populations across Africa, to determine the extent of epidemiological connectivity among E. helvum populations. Multiple markers reveal panmixia across the continental range, at a greater geographical scale than previously recorded for any other mammal, whereas populations on remote islands were genetically distinct. Multiple serological assays reveal antibodies to henipaviruses and Lagos bat virus in all locations, including small isolated island populations, indicating that factors other than population size and connectivity may be responsible for viral persistence. Our findings have potentially important public health implications, and highlight a need to avoid disturbances that may precipitate viral spillover.
Evolution is typically thought to proceed through divergence of genes, proteins and ultimately phenotypes. However, similar traits might also evolve convergently in unrelated taxa owing to similar selection pressures. Adaptive phenotypic convergence is widespread in nature, and recent results from several genes have suggested that this phenomenon is powerful enough to also drive recurrent evolution at the sequence level. Where homoplasious substitutions do occur these have long been considered the result of neutral processes. However, recent studies have demonstrated that adaptive convergent sequence evolution can be detected in vertebrates using statistical methods that model parallel evolution, although the extent to which sequence convergence between genera occurs across genomes is unknown. Here we analyse genomic sequence data in mammals that have independently evolved echolocation and show that convergence is not a rare process restricted to several loci but is instead widespread, continuously distributed and commonly driven by natural selection acting on a small number of sites per locus. Systematic analyses of convergent sequence evolution in 805,053 amino acids within 2,326 orthologous coding gene sequences compared across 22 mammals (including four newly sequenced bat genomes) revealed signatures consistent with convergence in nearly 200 loci. Strong and significant support for convergence among bats and the bottlenose dolphin was seen in numerous genes linked to hearing or deafness, consistent with an involvement in echolocation. Unexpectedly, we also found convergence in many genes linked to vision: the convergent signal of many sensory genes was robustly correlated with the strength of natural selection. This first attempt to detect genome-wide convergent sequence evolution across divergent taxa reveals the phenomenon to be much more pervasive than previously recognized.
Closely related taxa living in sympatry provide good opportunities to investigate the origin of barriers to gene flow as well as the extent of reproductive isolation. The only two recognized subspecies of the Chinese rufous horseshoe bat Rhinolophus sinicus are characterized by unusual relative distributions in which R. s. septentrionalis is restricted to a small area within the much wider range of its sister taxon R. s. sinicus. To determine the history of lineage divergence and gene flow between these taxa, we applied phylogenetic, demographic and coalescent analyses to multi-locus datasets. MtDNA gene genealogies and microsatellite-based clustering together revealed three divergent lineages of sinicus, corresponding to Central China, East China and the offshore Hainan Island. However, the central lineage of sinicus showed a closer relationship with septentrionalis than with other lineages of R. s. sinicus, in contrary to morphological data. Paraphyly of sinicus could result from either past asymmetric mtDNA introgression between these two taxa, or could suggest septentrionalis evolved in situ from its more widespread sister subspecies. To test between these hypotheses, we applied coalescent-based phylogenetic reconstruction and Approximate Bayesian Computation (ABC). We found that septentrionalis is likely to be the ancestral taxon and therefore a recent origin of this subspecies can be ruled out. On the other hand, we found a clear signature of asymmetric mtDNA gene flow from septentrionalis into central populations of sinicus yet no nuclear gene flow, thus strongly pointing to historical mtDNA introgression. We suggest that the observed deeply divergent lineages within R. sinicus probably evolved in isolation in separate Pleistocene refugia, although their close phylogeographic correspondence with distinct eco-environmental zones suggests that divergent selection might also have promoted broad patterns of population genetic structure.
Many mammals have evolved highly adapted hearing associated with ecological specialisation. Of these, bats possess the widest frequency range of vocalisations and associated hearing sensitivities, with frequencies of above 200 kHz in some lineages that use laryngeal echolocation. High frequency hearing in bats appears to have evolved via structural modifications of the inner ear, however, studying these minute features presents considerable challenges and hitherto few such attempts have been made. To understand these adaptations more fully, as well as gain insights into the evolutionary origins of ultrasonic hearing and echolocation in bats, we undertook micro-computed tomography (?CT) scans of the cochleae of representative bat species from 16 families, encompassing their broad range of ecological diversity. To characterise cochlear gross morphology, we measured the relative basilar membrane length and number of turns, and compared these values between echolocating and non-echolocating bats, as well as other mammals.
Endogenous gammaretroviruses (EGVs) have been widely studied in terrestrial mammals but seldom so in marine species. A genomic mining of the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) genome revealed a new EGV, termed Tursiops truncatus endogenous retrovirus (TTEV), which is divergent from extant mammalian EGVs. Molecular clock dating estimated the invasion time of TTEV into the host genome to be approximately 10-19 million years ago (MYA), while a previously identified killer whale endogenous gammaretrovirus (KWERV) was estimated to have invaded the host genome approximately 3-5 MYA. Using a PCR-based technique, we then verified that similar endogenous viruses exist in nine cetacean genomes. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that these cetacean EGVs are highly divergent from their counterparts in other mammals, including KWERV from the killer whale. In sum, we conclude that there have been at least two invasion episodes of EGVs into cetaceans during their evolutionary history.
Great advances have been made recently in understanding the genetic basis of the sensory biology of bats. Research has focused on the molecular evolution of candidate sensory genes, genes with known functions [e.g., olfactory receptor (OR) genes] and genes identified from mutations associated with sensory deficits (e.g., blindness and deafness). For example, the FoxP2 gene, underpinning vocal behavior and sensorimotor coordination, has undergone diversification in bats, while several genes associated with audition show parallel amino acid substitutions in unrelated lineages of echolocating bats and, in some cases, in echolocating dolphins, representing a classic case of convergent molecular evolution. Vision genes encoding the photopigments rhodopsin and the long-wave sensitive opsin are functional in bats, while that encoding the short-wave sensitive opsin has lost functionality in rhinolophoid bats using high-duty cycle laryngeal echolocation, suggesting a sensory trade-off between investment in vision and echolocation. In terms of olfaction, bats appear to have a distinctive OR repertoire compared with other mammals, and a gene involved in signal transduction in the vomeronasal system has become non-functional in most bat species. Bitter taste receptors appear to have undergone a "birth-and death" evolution involving extensive gene duplication and loss, unlike genes coding for sweet and umami tastes that show conservation across most lineages but loss in vampire bats. Common vampire bats have also undergone adaptations for thermoperception, via alternative splicing resulting in the evolution of a novel heat-sensitive channel. The future for understanding the molecular basis of sensory biology is promising, with great potential for comparative genomic analyses, studies on gene regulation and expression, exploration of the role of alternative splicing in the generation of proteomic diversity, and linking genetic mechanisms to behavioral consequences.
The vestibular system maintains the bodys sense of balance and, therefore, was probably subject to strong selection during evolutionary transitions in locomotion. Among mammals, bats possess unique traits that place unusual demands on their vestibular systems. First, bats are capable of powered flight, which in birds is associated with enlarged semicircular canals. Second, many bats have enlarged cochleae associated with echolocation, and both cochleae and semicircular canals share a space within the petrosal bone. To determine how bat vestibular systems have evolved in the face of these pressures, we used micro-CT scans to compare canal morphology across species with contrasting flight and echolocation capabilities. We found no increase in canal radius in bats associated with the acquisition of powered flight, but canal radius did correlate with body mass in bat species from the suborder Yangochiroptera, and also in non-echolocating Old World fruit bats from the suborder Yinpterochiroptera. No such trend was seen in members of the Yinpterochiroptera that use laryngeal echolocation, although canal radius was associated with wing-tip roundedness in this group. We also found that the vestibular system scaled with cochlea size, although the relationship differed in species that use constant frequency echolocation. Across all bats, the shape of the anterior and lateral canals was associated with large cochlea size and small body size respectively, suggesting differential spatial constraints on each canal depending on its orientation within the skull. Thus in many echolocating bats, it seems that the combination of small body size and enlarged cochlea together act as a principal force on the vestibular system. The two main groups of echolocating bats displayed different canal morphologies, in terms of size and shape in relation to body mass and cochlear size, thus suggesting independent evolutionary pathways and offering tentative support for multiple acquisitions of echolocation.
Myosin VI (encoded by the Myo6 gene) is highly expressed in the inner and outer hair cells of the ear, retina, and polarized epithelial cells such as kidney proximal tubule cells and intestinal enterocytes. The Myo6 gene is thought to be involved in a wide range of physiological functions such as hearing, vision, and clathrin-mediated endocytosis. Bats (Chiroptera) represent one of the most fascinating mammal groups for molecular evolutionary studies of the Myo6 gene. A diversity of specialized adaptations occur among different bat lineages, such as echolocation and associated high-frequency hearing in laryngeal echolocating bats, large eyes and a strong dependence on vision in Old World fruit bats (Pteropodidae), and specialized high-carbohydrate but low-nitrogen diets in both Old World and New World fruit bats (Phyllostomidae). To investigate what role(s) the Myo6 gene might fulfill in bats, we sequenced the coding region of the Myo6 gene in 15 bat species and used molecular evolutionary analyses to detect evidence of positive selection in different bat lineages. We also conducted real-time PCR assays to explore the expression levels of Myo6 in a range of tissues from three representative bat species. Molecular evolutionary analyses revealed that the Myo6 gene, which was widely considered as a hearing gene, has undergone adaptive evolution in the Old World fruit bats which lack laryngeal echolocation and associated high-frequency hearing. Real-time PCR showed the highest expression level of the Myo6 gene in the kidney among ten tissues examined in three bat species, indicating an important role for this gene in kidney function. We suggest that Myo6 has undergone adaptive evolution in Old World fruit bats in relation to receptor-mediated endocytosis for the preservation of protein and essential nutrients.
The impact of ecology and social organization on genetic structure at landscape spatial scales, where gene dynamics shape evolution as well as determine susceptibility to habitat fragmentation, is poorly understood. Attempts to assess these effects must take into account the potentially confounding effects of history. We used microsatellites to compare genetic structure in seven bat species with contrasting patterns of roosting ecology and social organization, all of which are codistributed in an ancient forest habitat that has been exceptionally buffered from radical habitat shifts. Over one thousand individuals were captured at foraging sites and genotyped at polymorphic microsatellite loci. Analyses of spatially explicit genotype data revealed interspecies differences in the extent of movement and gene flow and genetic structure across continuous intact forest. Highest positive genetic structure was observed in tree-roosting taxa that roost either alone or in small groups. By comparison, a complete absence of genetic autocorrelation was noted in the cave-roosting colonial species across the study area. Our results thus reveal measurable interspecies differences in the natural limits of gene flow in an unmodified habitat, which we attribute to contrasting roosting ecology and social organization. The consequences of ecology and behaviour for gene flow have important implications for conservation. In particular, tree-roosting species characterized by lower vagility and thus gene flow will be disproportionally impacted by landscape-scale forest clearance and habitat fragmentation, which are prevalent in the study region. Our method also highlights the usefulness of rapid sampling of foraging bats for assaying genetic structure, particularly where roosting sites are not always known.
How males gain access to mates and the potential for female choice will determine whether polygyny can operate at several levels, from within litters and groups to the wider population. Female lesser flat-headed bats (Tylonycteris pachypus) form maternity groups in bamboo stems. Unusually for bats, they are multiparous, providing the opportunity to test whether multi-level polygyny differs among males depending on whether they roost with females, with males or are solitary. We genotyped 662 individuals from 54 internodes and analysed parentage of 165 litters. Our results revealed 170 sets of paternal twins/triplets, of which 96 were full-sibs and 74 were half-sibs. We found that males captured roosting with females typically sired more offspring overall than did other males and also showed a greater tendency to monopolize paternity within both litters and roosting groups. In comparison, males that sired fewer full-sibs were assigned more maternal half-sibs. These latter individuals, which included solitary males and those from all-male groups, might gain copulations either via roaming with furtive mating or during visits by females. Indeed, female lesser flat-headed bats store sperm, so could benefit from multiple mating to reduce genetic incompatibilities. At the same time, however, we found no evidence of outbreeding. Finally, relatedness and mtDNA analyses revealed that polygyny also operated within matrilineal kin, suggesting a system that might promote social cohesiveness. Future studies of individual movements will help to determine the extent to which mixed paternities in litters, matrilines and groups are driven by male or female behaviour.
Heterothermy (hibernation and daily torpor) is a key strategy that animals use to survive in harsh conditions and is widely employed by bats, which are found in diverse habitats and climates. Bats comprise more than 20% of all mammals and although heterothermy occurs in divergent lineages of bats, suggesting it might be an ancestral condition, its evolutionary history is complicated by complex phylogeographic patterns. Here, we use Leptin, which regulates lipid metabolism and is crucial for thermogenesis of hibernators, as molecular marker and combine physiological, molecular and biochemical analyses to explore the possible evolutionary history of heterothermy in bat. The two tropical fruit bats examined here were homeothermic; in contrast, the two tropical insectivorous bats were clearly heterothermic. Molecular evolutionary analyses of the Leptin gene revealed positive selection in the ancestors of all bats, which was maintained or further enhanced the lineages comprising mostly heterothermic species. In contrast, we found evidence of relaxed selection in homeothermic species. Biochemical assays of bat Leptin on the activity on adipocyte degradation revealed that Leptin in heterothermic bats was more lipolytic than in homeothermic bats. This shows that evolutionary sequence changes in this protein are indeed functional and support the interpretation of our physiological results and the molecular evolutionary analyses. Our combined data strongly support the hypothesis that heterothermy is the ancestral state of bats and that this involved adaptive changes in Leptin. Subsequent loss of heterothermy in some tropical lineages of bats likely was associated with range and dietary shifts.
The potential for parallel impacts of habitat change on multiple biodiversity levels has important conservation implications. We report on the first empirical test of the species-genetic diversity correlation across co-distributed taxa with contrasting ecological traits in the context of habitat fragmentation. In a rainforest landscape undergoing conversion to oil palm, we show that depauperate species richness in fragments is mirrored by concomitant declines in population genetic diversity in the taxon predicted to be most susceptible to fragmentation. This association, not seen in the other species, relates to fragment area rather than isolation. While highlighting the over-simplification of extrapolating across taxa, we show that fragmentation presents a double jeopardy for some species. For these, conserving genetic diversity at levels of pristine forest could require sites 15-fold larger than those needed to safeguard species numbers. Importantly, however, each fragment contributes to regional species richness, with larger ones tending to contain more species.
The gene Prestin encodes a motor protein that is thought to confer the high-frequency sensitivity and selectivity that characterizes the mammalian auditory system. Recent research shows that the Prestin gene has undergone a burst of positive selection on the ancestral branch of the Old World horseshoe and leaf-nosed bats (Rhinolophidae and Hipposideridae, respectively), and also on the branch leading to echolocating cetaceans. Moreover, these two groups share a large number of convergent amino acid sequence replacements. Horseshoe and leaf-nosed bats exhibit narrowband echolocation, in which the emitted calls are based on the second harmonic of a predominantly constant frequency (CF) component, the frequency of which is also over-represented in the cochlea. This highly specialized form of echolocation has also evolved independently in the neotropical Parnells mustached bat (Pteronotus parnellii). To test whether the convergent evolution of CF echolocation between lineages has arisen from common changes in the Prestin gene, we sequenced the Prestin coding region (~2,212 bp, >99% coverage) in P. parnellii and several related species that use broadband echolocation calls. Our reconstructed Prestin gene tree and amino acid tree showed that P. parnellii did not group together with Old World horseshoe and leaf-nosed bats, but rather clustered within its true sister species. Comparisons of sequences confirmed that P. parnellii shared most amino acid changes with its congeners, and we found no evidence of positive selection in the branch leading to the genus of Pteronotus. Our result suggests that the adaptive changes seen in Prestin in horseshoe and leaf-nosed bats are not necessary for CF echolocation in P. parnellii.
Recent evidence indicates that the evolution of ultrasonic hearing in echolocating bats and cetaceans has involved adaptive amino acid replacements in the cochlear gene prestin. A substantial number of these changes have occurred in parallel in both groups, suggesting that particular amino acid residues might confer greater auditory sensitivity to high frequencies. Here we review some of these findings, and consider whether similar signatures of prestin protein sequence evolution also occur in mammals that possess high frequency hearing for passive localization and conversely, whether this gene has undergone less change in mammals that lack high frequency hearing.
The early radiation of cetaceans coincides with the origin of their defining ecological and sensory differences [1, 2]. Toothed whales (Odontoceti) evolved echolocation for hunting 36-34 million years ago, whereas baleen whales (Mysticeti) evolved filter feeding and do not echolocate . Echolocation in toothed whales demands exceptional high-frequency hearing , and both echolocation and ultrasonic hearing have also evolved independently in bats [4, 5]. The motor protein Prestin that drives the electromotility of the outer hair cells (OHCs) is likely to be especially important in ultrasonic hearing, because it is the vibratory response of OHC to incoming sound waves that confers the enhanced sensitivity and selectivity of the mammalian auditory system [6, 7]. Prestin underwent adaptive change early in mammal evolution  and also shows sequence convergence between bats and dolphins [9, 10], as well as within bats . Focusing on whales, we show for the first time that the extent of protein evolution in Prestin can be linked directly to the evolution of high-frequency hearing. Moreover, we find that independent cases of sequence convergence in mammals have involved numerous identical amino acid site replacements. Our findings shed new light on the importance of Prestin in the evolution of mammalian hearing.
The repeated formation and loss of land-bridges during the Pleistocene have had lasting impacts on population genetic structure. In the tropics, where island populations persisted through multiple glacial cycles, alternating periods of isolation and contact are expected to have driven population and taxonomic divergence. Here, we combine mitochondrial and nuclear sequence data with microsatellites to dissect the impact of Pleistocene climate change on intra-specific diversification in the horseshoe bat Rhinolophus affinis. This taxon shows considerable morphological and acoustic variation: two parapatric subspecies (himalayanus and macrurus) occur on mainland China and a third (hainanus) on Hainan Island. Our phylogeographic reconstruction and coalescent analyses suggest the island subspecies formed from an ancestral population of himalayanus via two colonization events c. 800,000 years before present. R. a. hainanus then recolonized the mainland, forming macrurus and thus a secondary contact zone with himalayanus. Finally, macrurus recolonized Hainan following the LGM. We found that all three biological events corresponded to known periods of land-bridge formation. Evidence of introgression was detected between macrurus and both its sister taxa, with geographical proximity rather than length of separation appearing to be the biggest determinant of subsequent genetic exchange. Our study highlights the important role of climate-mediated sea level changes have had in shaping current processes and patterns of population structure and taxonomic diversification.
The fulvous fruit bat (Rousettus leschenaulti) and the greater short-nosed fruit bat (Cynopterus sphinx) are two abundant and widely co-distributed Old World fruit bats in Southeast and East Asia. The former species forms large colonies in caves while the latter roots in small groups in trees. To test whether these differences in social organization and roosting ecology are associated with contrasting patterns of gene flow, we used mtDNA and nuclear loci to characterize population genetic subdivision and phylogeographic histories in both species sampled from China, Vietnam and India. Our analyses from R. leschenaulti using both types of marker revealed little evidence of genetic structure across the study region. On the other hand, C. sphinx showed significant genetic mtDNA differentiation between the samples from India compared with China and Vietnam, as well as greater structuring of microsatellite genotypes within China. Demographic analyses indicated signatures of past rapid population expansion in both taxa, with more recent demographic growth in C. sphinx. Therefore, the relative genetic homogeneity in R. leschenaulti is unlikely to reflect past events. Instead we suggest that the absence of substructure in R. leschenaulti is a consequence of higher levels of gene flow among colonies, and that greater vagility in this species is an adaptation associated with cave roosting.
Instances of hybridization between mammalian taxa in the wild are rarely documented. To test for introgression between sibling species of horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus yunanensis and R. pearsoni) and two subspecies of the latter (R. p. pearsoni and R. p. chinensis), we sequenced two mtDNA and two ncDNA markers in individuals sampled from multiple localities within their overlapping ranges. The interspecific mtDNA gene tree corresponded to the expected taxonomic divisions, and coalescent-based analyses suggested divergence occurred around 4 MYA. However, these relationships strongly conflicted with those recovered from two independent nuclear gene trees, in which R. yunanensis clustered with R. p. pearsoni to the exclusion of R. p. chinensis. This geographically widespread discordance is best explained by large-scale historical introgression of ncDNA from R. yunanensis to R. pearsoni by male-mediated exchange in mixed species colonies during Pleistocene glacial periods, when ranges may have contracted and overlapped more than at present. Further species tree-gene tree conflicts were detected between R. p. pearsoni and R. p. chinensis, also indicating past and/or current introgression in their overlapping regions. However, here the patterns point to asymmetric mtDNA introgression without ncDNA introgression. Analyses of coalescence times indicate this exchange has occurred subsequent to the divergence of these subspecies from their common ancestor. Our work highlights the importance of using multiple data sets for reconstructing phylogeographic histories and resolving taxonomic relationships.
Cases of convergent evolution - where different lineages have evolved similar traits independently - are common and have proven central to our understanding of selection. Yet convincing examples of adaptive convergence at the sequence level are exceptionally rare . The motor protein Prestin is expressed in mammalian outer hair cells (OHCs) and is thought to confer high frequency sensitivity and selectivity in the mammalian auditory system . We previously reported that the Prestin gene has undergone sequence convergence among unrelated lineages of echolocating bat . Here we report that this gene has also undergone convergent amino acid substitutions in echolocating dolphins, which group with echolocating bats in a phylogenetic tree of Prestin. Furthermore, we find evidence that these changes were driven by natural selection.
The ecological radiation of mammals to inhabit a variety of light environments is largely attributed to adaptive changes in their visual systems. Visual capabilities are conferred by anatomical features of the eyes as well as the combination and properties of their constituent light sensitive pigments. To test whether evolutionary switches to different niches characterized by dim-light conditions coincided with molecular adaptation of the rod pigment rhodopsin, we sequenced the rhodopsin gene in twenty-two mammals including several bats and subterranean mole-rats. We compared these to thirty-seven published mammal rhodopsin sequences, from species with divergent visual ecologies, including nocturnal, diurnal and aquatic groups. All taxa possessed an intact functional rhodopsin; however, phylogenetic tree reconstruction recovered a gene tree in which rodents were not monophyletic, and also in which echolocating bats formed a monophyletic group. These conflicts with the species tree appear to stem from accelerated evolution in these groups, both of which inhabit low light environments. Selection tests confirmed divergent selection pressures in the clades of subterranean rodents and bats, as well as in marine mammals that live in turbid conditions. We also found evidence of divergent selection pressures among groups of bats with different sensory modalities based on vision and echolocation. Sliding window analyses suggest most changes occur in transmembrane domains, particularly obvious within the pinnipeds; however, we found no obvious pattern between photopic niche and predicted spectral sensitivity based on known critical amino acids. This study indicates that the independent evolution of rhodopsin vision in ecologically specialised groups of mammals has involved molecular evolution at the sequence level, though such changes might not mediate spectral sensitivity directly.
The origin and maintenance of intraspecific variation in vocal signals is important for population divergence and speciation. Where vocalizations are transmitted by vertical cultural inheritance, similarity will reflect co-ancestry, and thus vocal divergence should reflect genetic structure. Horseshoe bats are characterized by echolocation calls dominated by a constant frequency component that is partly determined by maternal imprinting. Although previous studies showed that constant frequency calls are also influenced by some non-genetic factors, it is not known how frequency relates to genetic structure. To test this, we related constant frequency variation to genetic and non-genetic variables in the Formosan lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus monoceros). Recordings of bats from across Taiwan revealed that females called at higher frequencies than males; however, we found no effect of environmental or morphological factors on call frequency. By comparison, variation showed clear population structure, with frequencies lower in the centre and east, and higher in the north and south. Within these regions, frequency divergence was directional and correlated with geographical distance, suggesting that call frequencies are subject to cultural drift. However, microsatellite clustering analysis showed that broad differences in constant frequency among populations corresponded to discontinuities in allele frequencies resulting from vicariant events. Our results provide evidence that the processes shaping genetic subdivision have concomitant consequences for divergence in echolocation call frequency.
Nonfunctional visual genes are usually associated with species that inhabit poor light environments (aquatic/subterranean/nocturnal), and these genes are believed to have lost function through relaxed selection acting on the visual system. Indeed, the visual system is so adaptive that the reconstruction of intact ancestral opsin genes has been used to reject nocturnality in ancestral primates. To test these assertions, we examined the functionality of the short and medium- to long-wavelength opsin genes in a group of mammals that are supremely adapted to a nocturnal niche: the bats. We sequenced the visual cone opsin genes in 33 species of bat with diverse sensory ecologies and reconstructed their evolutionary history spanning 65 million years. We found that, whereas the long-wave opsin gene was conserved in all species, the short-wave opsin gene has undergone dramatic divergence among lineages. The occurrence of gene defects in the short-wave opsin gene leading to loss of function was found to directly coincide with the origin of high-duty-cycle echolocation and changes in roosting ecology in some lineages. Our findings indicate that both opsin genes have been under purifying selection in the majority bats despite a long history of nocturnality. However, when spectacular losses do occur, these result from an evolutionary sensory modality tradeoff, most likely driven by subtle shifts in ecological specialization rather than a nocturnal lifestyle. Our results suggest that UV color vision plays a considerably more important role in nocturnal mammalian sensory ecology than previously appreciated and highlight the caveat of inferring light environments from visual opsins and vice versa.
The homeobox (Hox) genes Hoxd12 and Hoxd13 control digit patterning and limb formation in tetrapods. Both show strong expression in the limb bud during embryonic development, are highly conserved across vertebrates, and show mutations that are associated with carpal, metacarpal, and phalangeal deformities. The most dramatic evolutionary reorganization of the mammalian limb has occurred in cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), in which the hind limbs have been lost and the forelimbs have evolved into paddle-shaped flippers. We reconstructed the phylogeny of digit patterning in mammals and inferred that digit number has changed twice in the evolution of the cetacean forelimb. First, the divergence of the early cetaceans from their even-toed relatives coincided with the reacquisition of the pentadactyl forelimb, whereas the ancestors of tetradactyl baleen whales (Mysticeti) later lost a digit again. To test whether the evolution of the cetacean forelimb is associated with positive selection or relaxation of Hoxd12 and Hoxd13, we sequenced these genes in a wide range of mammals. In Hoxd12, we found evidence of Darwinian selection associated with both episodes of cetacean forelimb reorganization. In Hoxd13, we found a novel expansion of a polyalanine tract in cetaceans compared with other mammals (17/18 residues vs. 14/15 residues, respectively), lengthening of which has previously been shown to be linked to synpolydactyly in humans and mice. Both genes also show much greater sequence variation among cetaceans than across other mammalian lineages. Our results strongly implicate 5HoxD genes in the modulation of digit number, web forming, and the high morphological diversity of the cetacean manus.
Phylogeographical studies are typically based on haplotype data, occasionally on nuclear markers such as microsatellites, but rarely combine both. This is unfortunate because the use of markers with contrasting modes of inheritance and rates of evolution might provide a more accurate and comprehensive understanding of a species history. Here we present a detailed study of the phylogeography of the greater horseshoe bat, Rhinolophus ferrumequinum, using 1098 bp of the mitochondrial ND2 gene from 45 localities from across its Palaearctic range to infer population history. In addition, we re-analysed a large microsatellite data set available for this species and compared the results of both markers to infer population relationships and the historical processes influencing them. We show that mtDNA, the most popular marker in phylogeography studies, yielded a misleading result, and would have led us to conclude erroneously that a single expansion had taken place in Europe. Only by combining the mitochondrial and microsatellite data sets are we able to reconstruct the species history and show two colonization events in Europe, one before the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and one after it. Combining markers also revealed the importance of Asia Minor as an ancient refugium for this species and a source population for the expansion of the greater horseshoe bat into Europe before the LGM.
We isolated nine polymorphic microsatellite markers from the Chinese rufous horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus sinicus) using an enriched library method. We assessed genetic polymorphism at these loci in 42 individuals from a single population. We recorded high genetic diversity with four to 17 alleles per locus, and estimated expected and observed heterozygosity values ranging from 0.492 to 0.910 and from 0.462 to 0.881, respectively. No locus departed from Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium following Bonferroni correction, and no linkage disequilibrium was detected. Most loci successfully cross-amplified congeneric species. These loci will be used to characterize phylogeographical history of Rhinolophus sinicus in China.
Phylogenetic conflicts between genetic markers can help to disentangle complex histories of phylogeography and introgression among taxa. We previously proposed that the Chinese mainland subspecies of the intermediate horseshoe bat Rhinolophus affinis himalayanus colonized Hainan Island to form the subspecies R. a. hainanus. Subsequent recolonization of the mainland formed a third taxon, R. a macrurus, and a secondary contact zone with the ancestral himalayanus. To test for historical and recurrent genetic exchange between these mainland subspecies, we sampled populations of each from two parapatric zones and undertook analyses using one mtDNA marker, three nuclear genes and 14 microsatellites. Nuclear DNA, echolocation call frequencies and morphological data all recovered two taxa; however, a mtDNA phylogeny revealed two himalayanus clades, of which one clustered with macrurus, as well as some shared or related mtDNA haplotypes in eastern populations. Isolation-with-migration (IM) models suggested some mtDNA gene flow from macrurus to himalayanus. However, strong population structure in himalayanus raises the possibility that macrurus captured mtDNA from a coastal population of himalayanus that has since become rare or extinct. To reconcile these two sets of results, we suggest that the IM estimates might reflect historical mtDNA gene flow among populations of himalayanus, before mtDNA was subsequently captured by macrurus. Finally, microsatellite-based ABC analyses supported the island origin of macrurus; however, mtDNA-based ABC analyses suggest this taxon might have evolved on the mainland. Our findings highlight the importance of understanding population history and structure for interpreting hybridization and introgression events.
To understand how complex, or advanced various forms of cognition are, and to compare them between species for evolutionary studies, we need to understand the diversity of neural-computational mechanisms that may be involved, and to identify the genetic changes that are necessary to mediate changes in cognitive functions. The same overt cognitive capacity might be mediated by entirely different neural circuitries in different species, with a many-to-one mapping between behavioural routines, computations and their neural implementations. Comparative behavioural research needs to be complemented with a bottom-up approach in which neurobiological and molecular-genetic analyses allow pinpointing of underlying neural and genetic bases that constrain cognitive variation. Often, only very minor differences in circuitry might be needed to generate major shifts in cognitive functions and the possibility that cognitive traits arise by convergence or parallel evolution needs to be taken seriously. Hereditary variation in cognitive traits between individuals of a species might be extensive, and selection experiments on cognitive traits might be a useful avenue to explore how rapidly changes in cognitive abilities occur in the face of pertinent selection pressures.
Frugivorous and nectarivorous bats are able to ingest large quantities of sugar in a short time span while avoiding the potentially adverse side-effects of elevated blood glucose. The glucose transporter 4 protein (GLUT4) encoded by the Slc2a4 gene plays a critical role in transmembrane skeletal muscle glucose uptake and thus glucose homeostasis. To test whether the Slc2a4 gene has undergone adaptive evolution in bats with carbohydrate-rich diets in relation to their insect-eating sister taxa, we sequenced the coding region of the Slc2a4 gene in a number of bat species, including four Old World fruit bats (Pteropodidae) and three New World fruit bats (Phyllostomidae). Our molecular evolutionary analyses revealed evidence that Slc2a4 has undergone a change in selection pressure in Old World fruit bats with 11 amino acid substitutions detected on the ancestral branch, whereas, no positive selection was detected in the New World fruit bats. We noted that in the former group, amino acid replacements were biased towards either Serine or Isoleucine, and, of the 11 changes, six were specific to Old World fruit bats (A133S, A164S, V377F, V386I, V441I and G459S). Our study presents preliminary evidence that the Slc2a4 gene has undergone adaptive changes in Old World fruit bats in relation to their ability to meet the demands of a high sugar diet.
The enzyme alanine-glyoxylate aminotransferase 1 (AGT) functions to detoxify glyoxylate before it is converted into harmful oxalate. In mammals, mitochondrial targeting of AGT in carnivorous species versus peroxisomal targeting in herbivores is controlled by two signal peptides that correspond to these respective organelles. Differential expression of the mitochondrial targeting sequence (MTS) is considered an adaptation to diet-specific subcellular localization of glyoxylate precursors. Bats are an excellent group in which to study adaptive changes in dietary enzymes; they show unparalleled mammalian dietary diversification as well as independent origins of carnivory, frugivory, and nectarivory. We studied the AGT gene in bats and other mammals with diverse diets and found that the MTS has been lost in unrelated lineages of frugivorous bats. Conversely, species exhibiting piscivory, carnivory, insectivory, and sanguinivory possessed intact MTSs. Detected positive selection in the AGT of ancestral fruit bats further supports adaptations related to evolutionary changes in diet.
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