Monday, November 5, 2018

Just how blind are bats? Color vision gene study examines key sensory tradeoffs

Ever heard the term "blind as a bat". Well in some cases that expression is not true. A study by Bruno Simons, Emma Teeling and colleagues, found that bats may have not lost their vision but may have selected other senses to be stronger than vision. Bats are mammals that are very different from other mammals, this is because they can truly fly, and they use echolocation to find their way. scientists argued that tradeoffs to bat vision were a result of being nocturnal and having to adapt to the conditions.

Scientists performed a DNA sequencing and analyzed vision genes in bats. The genes they looked at are SWS1, which is short wavelength sensitive, for blue/ UV light. The scientists also looked at MWS/LWS, which is medium or long wavelength sensitive for green, yellow, and red light. 111 species were studied and was found that SWS1 gene was more commonly lost than expected. 26 of the 111 species examined showed a complete loss of SWS1 gene, these bats were mostly cave roosting bats. "Our work supports previous hypotheses which suggest the pseudogenization [or loss] of the SWS1 opsin may be related to the adoption of advanced echolocation (high-duty cycle) and, cave roosting habits," said Teeling. However the MWS/LWS were seen in a majority of the bat species. This suggests that bats are not blind and some can see in UV light and middle range light, but with the advanced echolocation the SWS1 (UV light) gene, gets cancelled out. This study also showed that vision is still an important sensory in echolocation. This study is important to the understanding of how different adaptations and sensory's affect each other. I believe they should continue to study and learn about bats and their adaptations. 

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