News Round-Up

Genomic basis of bat superpowers revealed: like how they survive deadly viruses


The genetic material that codes for bat adaptations and superpowers – such as the ability to fly, to use sound to move effortlessly in complete darkness, to tolerate and survive potentially deadly viruses, and to resist ageing and cancer – has been revealed and published in Nature. Liliana M. Dávalos, a Stony Brook University evolutionary biologist and co-author, worked as part of the executive committee of the global consortium of scientists, Bat1K, to sequence the genome of six widely divergent living bat species.

Although other bat genomes have been published before, the Bat1K genomes are 10 times more complete than any bat genome published to date.

One aspect of the paper findings shows evolution through gene expansion and loss in a family of genes, APOBEC3, which is known to play an important role in immunity to viruses in other mammals. The details in the paper that explain this evolution set the groundwork for investigating how these genetic changes, found in bats but not in other mammals, could help prevent the worst outcomes of viral diseases in other mammals, including humans. MORE

Header image: A study that sequenced genomes from six widely divergent living bat species, including Phyllostomus discolor, the pale spear-nosed bat, reveals the genetics behind some bat ‘superpowers,’ such as surviving deadly viruses and to use sound to navigate in darkness. Credit: Brock and Sherri Fenton.