Tuesday, March 12, 2024

The Genetics Behind Bat Wings

    An article in the Washington Post from March 28, 2016, outlines the genetic origins of bat wings, specifically looking into the evolutionary history of these unique mammalian features. Researchers, led by Nadav Ahituv, Nicola Illing, and Katie Pollard, utilized genetic tools to study the embryonic development of bat wings, examining the genes and genetic switches responsible for wing development. These genetic switches, known as enhancers, regulate the timing of gene expression in the body. 

    The team sequenced the genome of Natal long-fingered bats, analyzed bat embryos at specific stages, and successfully identified thousands of wing development genes and genetic switches. This data highlighted major differences in activity between forelimb and hindlimbs during development. Additionally, the study compared bats to other mammals, revealing substantial differences in gene expression, limb elongation, webbing, and symmetry. These findings may allow furthers studies to be aimed at researching human malformations.

    Personally, I find this research to be intriguing due to my affection for bats. The article discusses how the genes were compared to those of other mammals, but I wonder about their comparison to birds. Both bats and birds possess wings that that have evolved convergently, suggesting potential similarities in their genomes. Regarding the application to human malformations, I find it remarkable that such fascinating research could also contribute to aiding people. It's important to remember that we are all mammals, and research like this holds significant value.


  1. Fascinating read! The research delving into the genetic underpinnings of bat wing development is truly remarkable. It's incredible to think about how much we can learn about evolution and developmental biology from studying the genetic makeup of such unique creatures as bats. I'm particularly intrigued by the use of enhancers to regulate gene expression during wing development and how this can differ so significantly between the forelimbs and hindlimbs.

    While the comparison of bat genes with those of other mammals provides valuable insights, I'm curious about whether the researchers considered looking into the genomic similarities or differences between bat wings and bird wings. Given that both have evolved convergently to achieve flight, it would be interesting to see if there are any shared genetic pathways or if their development is entirely distinct.

    Moreover, the potential applications of this research in understanding and possibly addressing human malformations highlight the broader significance of such studies. It's a testament to the idea that by understanding other organisms, we can gain valuable perspectives on our own biology.

    Thank you for sharing this enlightening piece. It's a reminder of how interconnected the natural world is and how even the most specialized adaptations can offer insights into fundamental biological processes.


  2. This is absolutely fascinating! It's incredible how studying bat wings can unravel the secrets of mammalian evolution and potentially aid in understanding human genetic malformations. The convergence of wings in bats and birds raises intriguing questions about evolution across different species. It's a reminder of how interconnected we are in the tapestry of life and how much we can learn from each other.

  3. If there's anything I've learned from these posts it's that there are so many findings from animals that I would not expect. Never thought the answer to so many things would lie in bat wings, but it's really interesting to see that there possibly is! Very interesting and eye opening article.