ADVERTISEMENT
See Inside December 2008

Taking Wing: Uncovering the Evolutionary Origins of Bats

At last, fossil and genetic findings elucidate the evolution of bats--and settle a long-standing debate over the origins of flight and echolocation



Kim Taylor NPL/Minden Pictures

Editor's Note: This story will be published in the December 2008 issue of Scientific American.

Survey the sky at twilight on a summer’s eve, and you just might glimpse one of evolution’s most spectacular success stories: bats. With representatives on every continent except Antarctica, they are extraordinarily diverse, accounting for one in every five species of mammal alive today. The key to bats’ rise to prominence is, of course, their ability to fly, which permits them to exploit resources that other mammals cannot reach. But their ascension was hardly a foregone conclusion: no other mammal has conquered the air. Indeed, exactly how these rulers of the night sky arose from terrestrial ancestors is a question that has captivated biologists for decades.

This is only a preview. Get the rest of this article now!

Select an option below:

Customer Sign In

*You must have purchased this issue or have a qualifying subscription to access this content


It has been identified that the institution you are trying to access this article from has institutional site license access to Scientific American on nature.com.
Click here to access this article in its entirety through site license access.

Share this Article:

Comments

You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.