Metal bats have long been the subject of speculation, but new research suggests the evolution of the bats’ distinctive bat-like body and the way they evolved into bats may be more ancient than previously thought.
The researchers, from the University of Queensland, say it was the same mechanism that gave bats their distinctive appearance as well as their long, thin tail feathers that led to the bat-sized body and its powerful clawed foot.
Dr Jules Emsley, lead author of the study, said it was a key finding for understanding the evolution and development of bats.
“This is a very important finding,” Dr Emsly said.
“We now have a much clearer understanding of how the body and tail evolved, and that is the same body and it has a long, short tail.”
Dr Etsley and his team found that the tail of a bat was not just shaped like a bat’s body but also had many features unique to bats, including its ability to move up and down, which allowed it to climb trees and swim in shallow waters.
“Bats have always been an interesting and fascinating group of animals, but until now we haven’t had a clear picture of how they evolved to become bats,” Dr Emsley said.
“We were able to sort of see a lot of things that we could never have seen before.”
This is the first time that we have seen these kinds of anatomical changes in a bat, that are unique to these species.
“Dr Emssley said the findings were consistent with the evolution in bats of a large, muscular body with a long tail.
The new findings also help explain why bats had the unique ability to climb tall trees.
Dr Ersley said a lot more work needed to be done to understand how bats evolved into the huge animals that we see today.
The research has been published in the journal Current Biology.