Genetically, Dolphins Are Like ... Bats?

They have nearly 200 genomic regions in common

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 5, 2013 1:04 PM CDT

(Newser) – One is an adorable marine mammal. The other is a creepy flying rodent that inspires masked vigilantes. But it turns out that, deep down, dolphins and bats have a surprising amount in common. A new study has found that dolphin and bat genes are strikingly similar in nearly 200 genomic regions, LiveScience reports. Researchers thought to compare the two because both rely on echolocation.

It's not that dolphins and bats are evolutionary cousins or anything. Scientists think it's an example of "convergent evolution," the phenomenon of different species in similar circumstances developing similar traits—and similar genes. "We didn't expect to see more than perhaps 10 to 30 genes converge," one researcher says. "Instead, we were able to detect many times that number." And while many relate to hearing, vision, and other areas associated with echolocation, most have unclear or unknown functions, Science reports.

A Pacific White-Sided Dolphin is seen reflecting against the unsually smooth water surface of the Hecate Straits, South of Ketchikan, Alaska, Aug. 2, 2007.   (AP Photo/Dr. Scott M. Lieberman)
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