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How should the bat family tree be arranged? Analysis of bats’ inner ear anatomy supports a previously proposed arrangement that was based on DNA analysis. The findings also shed light on the evolution of echolocation.
Echolocating animals, including most species of bat and echolocators such as dolphins, obtain information about their surroundings from the differences between outgoing signals that they emit and the echoes returning to them. Some blind people orient by echolocation using tongue clicks. Signals emitted by animals for echolocation can be used for orientation and communication, and the ability to echolocate allows animals to operate in the dark or under conditions of unpredictable lighting. Echolocation also provides evidence of bats’ evolutionary history, as portrayed by their family tree. Writing in Nature, Sulser et al.1 present neuroanatomical evidence from an examination of canals in bats’ inner ears. The data aid our understanding of bat evolution and the importance of echolocation.