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The evolution of smell in fruit-eating bats

For bats, a sense of smell (also known as olfaction) is critically important. These nocturnal flyers can help explain the evolution of olfaction because they have evolved diverse sensory and dietary specializations over the last 64 million years. To further understanding of factors driving this evolution, a group of NSF-funded scientists studied fruit-eating bats.

During their research, the group discovered a unique olfactory receptor gene pattern linked to the bats. They also identified particular olfactory receptor gene families important for a fruit diet.

The study provides new insights on how olfactory receptor genes have evolved in response to evolutionary challenges and suggests that the ability to smell different odors is important for survival. With more than 1200 species, bats are a key part of many ecosystems. Fruit-eating bats, for instance, play an essential role in seed dispersal and the regeneration of forests in tropical regions.

Images (1 of )

  • a tent-making bat, a fruit-eating species of new world leaf-nosed bats
  • a short-tailed fruit bat feeding in a brazilian forest
A tent-making bat, a fruit-eating species of New World leaf-nosed bats.
Sebastien Puechmaille, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University
A short-tailed fruit bat feeds on fruit in a Brazilian forest.
Wikimedia Commons

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