The 1300 species of bat found around the world show extreme variation in shape and size, ranging from tiny microbats to fruit bats the size of small dogs.
Skull appearance, too, varies wildly in features such as snout length and jaw length.
Now, research conducted by biologists Jessica Arbour, Abigail Curtis, and Sharlene Santana, all from the University of Washington, US, has revealed the evolutionary pressures that have driven the process.
In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, the scientists reveal that overwhelmingly the demands of echo-location have driven the development of bat skull shape for tens of millions of years.
“Our study sought to address a major question about the evolution of diversity in the bat skull: What explains the large number of differences that we see in skull shape?” says Santana.
“We found that echolocation is a major – and ancient – contributor to skull shape. Diet is also important, but generally more recent.”
Curated content from the editorial staff at Cosmos Magazine.
Read science facts, not fiction...
There’s never been a more important time to explain the facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge and to showcase the latest scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by The Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, however big or small, help us provide access to trusted science information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by making a donation or purchasing a subscription today.