Scientists uncover genetic similarities between bats and dolphins

Sep 04, 2013
Several greater horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) roost. Credit: Professor Gareth Jones

The evolution of similar traits in different species, a process known as convergent evolution, is widespread not only at the physical level, but also at the genetic level, according to new research led by scientists at Queen Mary University of London and published in Nature this week.

The scientists investigated the genomic basis for , one of the most well-known examples of to examine the frequency of the process at a genomic level.

Echolocation is a complex that involves the production, reception and auditory processing of ultrasonic pulses for detecting unseen obstacles or tracking down prey, and has evolved separately in different groups of bats and cetaceans (including dolphins).

The scientists carried out one of the largest genome-wide surveys of its type to discover the extent to which convergent evolution of a physical feature involves the same genes.

They compared genomic sequences of 22 mammals, including the genomes of bats and dolphins, which independently evolved echolocation, and found genetic signatures consistent with convergence in nearly 200 different concentrated in several 'hearing genes'.

To perform the analysis, the team had to sift through millions of letters of genetic code using a computer program developed to calculate the probability of convergent changes occurring by chance, so they could reliably identify 'odd-man-out' genes.

They used a supercomputer at Queen Mary's School of Physics and Astronomy (GridPP High Throughput Cluster) to carry out the survey.

Consistent with an involvement in echolocation, signs of convergence among bats and the were seen in many genes previously implicated in hearing or deafness.

"We had expected to find identical changes in maybe a dozen or so genes but to see nearly 200 is incredible," explains Dr Joe Parker, first author on the paper.

"We know natural selection is a potent driver of evolution, but identifying so many examples where it produces nearly identical results in the genetic sequences of totally unrelated animals is astonishing."

Dr. Georgia Tsagkogeorga, who undertook the assembly of the new genome data for this study, added: "We found that molecular signals of convergence were widespread, and were seen in many genes across the genome. It greatly adds to our understanding of genome evolution."

Group leader, Dr Stephen Rossiter, said: "These results could be the tip of the iceberg. As the genomes of more species are sequenced and studied, we may well see other striking cases of convergent adaptations being driven by identical genetic changes."

Explore further: Genomic and computational tools provide window to distant past

More information: 'Genome-wide signatures of convergent evolution in echolocating mammals' is published in the journal Nature on 04 September 2013. The article is available from this link: dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature12511

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User comments : 10

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StillWind
1.5 / 5 (22) Sep 04, 2013
ID...just sayin'...
verkle
1.2 / 5 (22) Sep 04, 2013
Another nail in the coffin of evolution. These things don't just happen independently by chance. The more we find out, the more we know that evolution is just not scientifically credible.

Let's bury him now.

DonGateley
2.8 / 5 (11) Sep 04, 2013
Franklins, is there anything you don't have an utterly ignorant opinion on?
kelman66
3.3 / 5 (7) Sep 04, 2013
Nothing in the Theory of Evolution makes a conclusion about the existence or lack of God.

Its then rather ironic when religious types use pseudo-science in the name of God.
Religion saw that Darwin's logic was nearly flawless and knew they were going to lose the great battle and so chose their ultimate final last line in the sand. They were wrong and now use pseudo-science in a final desperate bid. The battle isnt over but soon. The Age of Reason is now upon us.
Sorry, no God, no Intelligent Design. Just dumb luck that we are here to debate it.
On secondthoughtthinkagain
2.2 / 5 (17) Sep 04, 2013
Very interesting article and definitely not unexpected. The comments are a bit baffling though. I cannot see Intelligent Design or Gods Will in anything discussed in the article. Perhaps I am mad though. If so then it has not affected my ability to reproduce and is therefore not something that will be weeded out of the gene pool.
Urgelt
1 / 5 (1) Sep 04, 2013
I have to wonder out loud if convergence alone can explain a result like this.

A more radical hypothesis is genetic contamination between wildly divergent species, perhaps mediated by viruses.
verkle
1 / 5 (16) Sep 05, 2013
Religion saw that Darwin's logic was nearly flawless...Sorry, no God, no Intelligent Design. Just dumb luck that we are here to debate it.


kelman--your atheist religion is very clear. Do you wish to cite any sources for your blatant lies? I don't know of anyone (scientist or not, religionist or not) that saw Darwin's logic as nearly flawless. Surely hardly anyone does so today. Have you ever read any of his writings?

On secondthoughtthinkagain
1 / 5 (11) Sep 05, 2013
Darwin's book "on the origin of species" is a very good read. Considering it was written some time ago, I was pleasantly surprised at the ease of comprehension or to put it another way the lack of language caused confusion.

The book should be compulsory reading for everyone to improve literacy and comprehension in the general public.

It helped me a lot and if it was not for this book I would probably me even more illiterate than I am now.
Lurker2358
1 / 5 (11) Sep 08, 2013
Group leader, Dr Stephen Rossiter, said: "These results could be the tip of the iceberg. As the genomes of more species are sequenced and studied, we may well see other striking cases of convergent adaptations being driven by identical genetic changes."


Morons.

There are a finite number of codons in DNA, and therefore a finite number of genes of any particular length, therefore, morons, you would expect that most life forms would share at least some genes, no matter how unrelated they are, simply because there are only a finite number of mechanisms which actually work.

Forget the insane posts of the atheists.

Life was obviously created by an intelligent, transcendent Mind.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Sep 08, 2013

There are a finite number of codons in DNA, and therefore a finite number of genes of any particular length, therefore, morons, you would expect that most life forms would share at least some genes, no matter how unrelated they are, simply because there are only a finite number of mechanisms which actually work.

Forget the insane posts of the atheists.

Life was obviously created by an intelligent, transcendent Mind.

You are aware that you have just explained convergent evolution (and explained the 'intelligent, transcendend mind' away?)