Dávalos Lab

We focus on biodiversity and conserving the world’s life support systems into the future. In our research, we use genetics, genomics, and statistical tools to discover mechanisms of extinction and survival.

Dávalos Lab
New postdoc opportunity!
New postdoc opportunity!

Together with Angela Rasmussen, were hiring an #integrative biology #postdoc! Love🦇 #bats, 🧬 #ecology, #evolution, #viruses 🦠? Come work with us on a NSF funded collaboration with Tigga Kingston and Simon Anthony. Apply now!

Dávalos talks genomics and the Amazon at United Nations General Assembly side event
Dávalos talks genomics and the Amazon at United Nations General Assembly side event

Alongside other experts from the Science Panel for the Amazon and industry, PI Dávalos spoke at the United Nations General Assembly side event on The Amazon as a Bioeconomy Superpower: Investing in Innovation and Technology for Sustainable Development which highlighted sustainable options for regional economic growth.

Liliana M. Dávalos

Liliana M. Dávalos

Professor of Conservation Biology

Stony Brook University

Principal Investigator

Liliana M. Dávalos is Professor of Conservation Biology at Stony Brook University’s Department of Ecology and Evolution. Centered on biodiversity, her research applies a range of molecular and quantitative tools ranging from molecular evolution to spatial statistics.

Interests
  • Molecular Evolution
  • Phylogenetics
  • Sustainability
Education
  • PhD in Ecology, Evolution,and Environmental Biology, 2004

    Columbia University (New York, New York)

  • Certificate in Environmental Policy Studies, 2001

    Columbia University (New York, New York)

  • BSc in Biology (emphasis on Genetics), 1997

    Universidad del Valle (Cali, Colombia)

Experience

Professor
Stony Brook University
May 2008 - Present · New York
  • Instructor and research lab leader
  • External fundraising for research: >$5M, >$2M as principal investigator
  • Internal team management: >10-person team of scientists ranging from undergraduate to postdoctoral researchers
  • Generating, coordinating, and leading collaborations: successfully delivering global multi-team projects

  • Consultant
    United Nations Office on Drug and Crime
    May 2008 - Present · New York
  • Study designer and data analyst
  • Analyzed literature on main deforestation drivers
  • Designed, interpreted, and visualized Bayesian geostatistical models
  • Coordinated and wrote the report

  • Lecturer
    Open University
    January 2007 - May 2008 · Milton Keynes
  • Generated exercises in evolutionary biology for non-traditional, distance learners
  • Instructor
    Columbia University
    Fall 2005 - Spring 2006 · New York
  • Co-designed and co-taught adult learner course: Evolution: from Darwin to DNA
  • Honors & Awards

    Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching
    2022 Award for Excellence in Assessment
    5 May 2022

    2022 Celebration of Teaching Awards.

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    Middlebury College Environmental Studies Program
    Scott A. Margolin '99 Lecture in Environmental Affairs
    22 April 2021

    This annual lecture, like the Environmental Studies Program, takes an interdisciplinary approach to the natural environment and human interaction with it.

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    Human Frontier Science Program Award
    Human Frontier Science Program
    July 2019 - June 2022

    To investigate evolution and mechanisms of seasonal reversible size changes in a mammal.

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    Teaching Excellence Award
    Stony Brook University College of Arts and Sciences
    April 2016

    For outstanding teaching and true caring for students.


    Kavli Frontiers of Science Israeli-American Symposium
    Kavli Frontiers of Science
    June 2013

    Symposia bring together outstanding young scientists to discuss exciting advances and opportunities in a broad range of disciplines.

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    Meet the Lab

    Principal Investigator

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    Liliana M. Dávalos

    Professor of Conservation Biology

    Researchers

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    Lama, Tanya

    NSF Rules of Life and IRACDA Postdoctoral Fellow.

    Graduate Students

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    Brown, Alexis

    PhD Student.

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    Cornejo, Fanny

    IDPAS PhD candidate.

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    Donat, Paul

    PhD Candidate.

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    Sipperly, Nicolette

    PhD Candidate and Anonymous Donation RA.

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    Thomas, William R.

    PhD Candidate and HFSP RA.

    Undergraduate Students

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    Chen, Trinity

    UG student.

    Alumni

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    Abubakar, Ramatu

    Dimensions REU, 2015.

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    Afzal, Sanah

    Dimensions REU, 2015.

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    Baird, Brandon

    Brandon graduated (BSc) Spring 2011. Joined the CUNY Graduate Program in 2013.

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    Barger, Laura

    Ward Melville High School, 2010. Graduated Spring 2011 and entered the University of Pennsylvania Fall 2011.

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    Bartasunaite, Margarita

    Dimensions REU, 2015.

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    Bruno, Alessondra

    Kings Park High School, 2014.

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    Caballero, Elodia

    Brentwood High School, 2012. Graduated Spring 2013 and entered Columbia University Fall 2013.

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    Cheng, Courtney

    Smithtown High School East, 2014.

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    Connell, Peter J.

    Oceanside High School, 2010. Graduated Spring 2011 and entered SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry Fall 2011.

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    Cornejo, Kendra

    Brentwood High School, 2010. Graduated Spring 2011 and entered Brown University Fall 2011.

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    Dahan, Romain

    Graduated (MA) Spring 2014. Joined a PhD at Arizona State University in 2014.

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    DelSerra, Samantha

    Graduated (MA) Winter 2014.

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    DeRosa, Samantha

    Smithtown High School West, 2014.

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    Donnelly, Gabrielle

    Smithtown High School East, 2013.

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    Gochman, Samuel

    Half Hollow Hills High School West, 2013.

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    Goldberg, Aaron

    Graduated (MA) Spring 2011.

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    Hall, Mark

    Completed his volunteer project in 2012.

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    He, Kenneth

    King’s Park High School, 2015. Graduated Spring 2016.

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    Heder, Sarah

    Undergraduate researcher, 2018-2019.

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    Islam, Amena

    Graduated (BSc) Spring 2021.

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    Lauterbur, M. Elise

    Graduated (PhD) Spring 2019. Currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Arizona.

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    Lei, Bonnie

    Walnut High School, 2010. Graduated Spring 2011, Harvard University 2015, currently at Microsoft.

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    Lengers, Alex

    Graduated (MA) Spring 2017.

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    Leung, Emily

    Graduated (BSc) Spring 2015.

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    Li, Edward

    Stuyvesant High School, 2013.

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    Lim, Marisa

    Graduated (PhD) Fall 2018. Currently a researcher at 10X Genomics.

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    Loop, Isabelle

    Graduated (BSc) Spring 2021.

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    Malewicz, Kaitlyn

    Undergraduate researcher, 2018-2019. Joined a PhD at Virginia Tech University.

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    Martin, Katie

    Graduated (MA) Spring 2017. Joined a PhD at the University of Central Florida.

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    McPherran, Anna

    Graduated (Ma) Spring 2022.

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    Medina, Mirena

    Graduated (BSc) Spring 2022.

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    Mets, Kristjan

    Graduated (PhD) Spring 2022.

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    Micko, Julie

    Graduated (BSc) Spring 2021.

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    Moore, Marianne S.

    IRACDA Postdoctoral Fellow 2013-2015. Currently faculty at Arizona State University.

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    Morales, Cameron

    Sanford H. Calhoun High School, 2014.

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    Navillo, John

    US-FWS REU, 2016.

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    Pantino, DJ

    Graduated (BSc) Spring 2013.

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    Patil, Bhavana

    Dimensions REU, 2015.

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    Peña, Johana

    Brentwood High School, 2012.

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    Perez, Yasin

    Brentwood High School, 2013-2014.

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    Poterewicz, Gregory

    US-FWS REU, 2013-2015.

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    Rojas, Danny

    FCT-Portugal Postdoctoral Fellow 2013-2017. Currently faculty at Universidad Javeriana, Cali, Colombia.

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    Rosenthal, Hannah

    Smithtown High School West, 2015. Graduated Spring 2017 and entered Cornell University Fall 2017.

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    Rothleder, Jonah

    Graduated (BSc) Spring 2013.

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    Rowe, Zachary

    Smithtown High School East, 2012. Graduated Spring 2013, joined Stony Brook University Fall 2013.

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    Semel, Jessica

    Graduated (BSc) Spring 2021.

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    Shah, Yesha

    Graduated (BSc) Spring 2013.

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    Szeto, Anne

    Graduated (BSc) Spring 2011.

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    Tucker, Clara

    Graduated (Ma) Spring 2022.

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    Tudda, Genna

    Graduated (MA) Spring 2013.

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    Vaccaro, Sarah

    Graduated (BSc) Spring 2022.

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    Warsi, Omar M.

    Graduated (PhD) Fall 2014. Currently a postdoctoral researcher at Uppsala University.

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    Wei, Nancy

    Herricks High School, 2012. Graduated Spring 2013, entered Northwestern University (biological sciences) Fall 2013.

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    Yohe, Laurel R.

    Graduated (PhD) Spring 2017, Dimensions postdoctoral researcher 2017-2018. Currently faculty at University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

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    Zhang, Xiaoyu

    Graduated (MA) Fall 2013.

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    Zheng, Melissa

    Graduated (BSc) Spring 2012.

    .js-id-current
    Integrated mechanisms of environment-host-virome interactions

    Integrated mechanisms of environment-host-virome interactions

    In nature, encounters between humans and wildlife correlate with greater viral burdens in wildlife and therefore with higher risk of new viral pathogens spilling over into human populations. Yet, the factors contributing to this risk remain poorly understood, especially among highly mobile, but tightly packed populations of animals, such as cave-dwelling bats. Using the Egyptian fruitbat as a study system, this project seeks to understand how factors such as access to food, overall animal health, and responses to immune challenges influence each other in the wild to control the degree of viral infection in populations experiencing variable exposure to humans. The project will use highly integrative approaches to illuminate the fundamental biology of disease risk and to enhance the capacity to predict risks of viral spillover from bats to other wildlife or to humans. The project will also have broader impact on education and training by implementing an innovative active-learning experience, called “From the Bat Cave – Integrative Disease Research for Undergraduates”, in which postdoctoral researchers will learn to apply integrative research and mentoring methods to involve cohorts of undergraduate students in research and peer-peer mentoring through GBatNet, a NSF-funded international network of bat research groups.

    Global Union of Bat Diversity Networks (GBatNet)

    Global Union of Bat Diversity Networks (GBatNet)

    Data and internship opportunities available to new students. Bats play critical roles in ecosystems globally. However, key aspects of bat biology, from the causes and consequences of population declines to their ability to transmit viruses to people, remain poorly understood. This AccelNet project establishes the Global Union of Bat Diversity Networks (GBatNet) to fill key knowledge gaps and create an international structure to accelerate discoveries across disciplines and borders. The network of networks fosters new avenues for global research exchange through coordination of joint research, education, and outreach. GBatNet links 14 regional and global networks with a shared vision to address pressing questions in bat biology of direct relevance to ecosystem and human health.

    Bat goblet cells as immuno-hotspots for infection of coronavirus

    Bat goblet cells as immuno-hotspots for infection of coronavirus

    Data available to new students. Why are bats so likely to carry coronaviruses, yet seem little affected by them? Many studies have focused on their immune system, but there is much to learn about the cells viruses attack upon entry.

    Immunological adaptations in bats to moderate the effect of coronavirus infection

    Immunological adaptations in bats to moderate the effect of coronavirus infection

    Data available to new students. All aspects of society have been upended by COVID-19. While most research has understandably focused on clinical applications, how the ancestors of SARS-CoV2 survive and circulate in nature is vital to both prevent future epidemics and help health professionals develop therapeutic treatments.

    Inter-Species Modeling for Spillback/Spillover Avoidance

    Inter-Species Modeling for Spillback/Spillover Avoidance

    In support of RA Kristjan Mets. While scientific reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic has been swift, the risk of SARS-CoV-2 spilling back into native North American wildlife and feral domestic animals remains underexplored. Experimental infections of a variety of hosts, serological analyses of the cats in Wuhan, and cases of COVID-19 among tigers and lions in the Bronx Zoo, all have shown transmission back to wildlife and feral cats is highly probable. Tools are urgently needed to determine which of these animal populations are at greatest risk of establishing a native reservoir, and where the overlap with human populations is greatest. We propose to model the risk of spillover to animal populations and conversely the risk of future secondary spillover by combining models of molecular interaction between the virus and potential hosts, with multi- species Susceptible-Infectious-Recovered (SIR) models. Complementing decades of experience in vertebrate genomics (Dávalos) with expertise in epidemiology (Meliker), and spatial dynamics of wildlife disease (Mets), ours is the ideal team to quickly generate and test the necessary models to avert this risk.

    Regrowing the brain; evolution and mechanisms of seasonal reversible size changes in a mammal

    Regrowing the brain; evolution and mechanisms of seasonal reversible size changes in a mammal

    To answer the question of how the shrew shrinks and then regrows its brain, we will establish this unusual species as a new model, by studying the biological, molecular, biochemical and genetic processes behind this reversible size change.

    The death and life of biodiversity: modeling extinction and resilience on islands

    The death and life of biodiversity: modeling extinction and resilience on islands

    Data available for new students. We assembled a group of socio-environmental scientists to analyze and model the natural and human factors that determine the extinction and resilience of insular vertebrate fauna and leverage this understanding into metrics for use in conservation assessments.

    The Very Extended Phenotype: connecting genetics and evolution to ecological function

    The Very Extended Phenotype: connecting genetics and evolution to ecological function

    We propose to develop a cross-scale research program that focuses on the relationships between phylogenetic diversity, genetic diversity and functional diversity of a biologically and economically important taxonomic group; bats.

    Genomics of exceptions to scaling of longevity to body size

    Genomics of exceptions to scaling of longevity to body size

    Data available to new students. This project focuses on pairs of closely related bat species that sharply differ in their longevity. Detailed genome comparisons between closely related species with different life spans will test different theories of aging.

    Interdisciplinary Graduate Training to Understand and Inform Decision Processes Using Advanced Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization

    Interdisciplinary Graduate Training to Understand and Inform Decision Processes Using Advanced Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization

    This training program responds to the challenges of new careers at the interface between science and decision making with an interdisciplinary set of new courses and a suite of activities united by the theme of “Scientific Training and Research to Inform DEcisions” (STRIDE).

    Chance or necessity? Adaptive vs. non adaptive evolution in plant-frugivore interactions

    Chance or necessity? Adaptive vs. non adaptive evolution in plant-frugivore interactions

    Data available to new students. The project focuses on a relatively unexplored yet crucial aspect of plant-animal mutualisms; volatile chemical communication between plants and vertebrate frugivores.

    Discovering genomic and developmental mechanisms that underlie sensory innovations critical to adaptive diversification

    Discovering genomic and developmental mechanisms that underlie sensory innovations critical to adaptive diversification

    Data available to new students. This project focuses on a diverse group of tropical bats in which various species evolved acute, specialized hearing, supersensitive eyes, the ability to smell subtle plant chemicals, or highly developed vomeronasal systems (thought to contribute to mating and social hierarchy).

    Uncovering skin immune proteins as predictors of resistance against WNS

    Uncovering skin immune proteins as predictors of resistance against WNS

    The goal of this project was to discover the mechanisms underlying the survival of remnant populations in the WNS-affected area.

    Diversification in Noctilionoid Bats

    Diversification in Noctilionoid Bats

    Noctilionoid bats comprise more than 200 species that span the entire ecological diversity of land mammals. They range from tiny insectivores and nectarivores to large carnivores, and even vampire bats. This is an unparalleled system for understanding how, when, and where bats evolved new diets, changed roosting habits and developed different kinds of echolocation. Together with the N. B. Simmons Lab, we are generating species-level phylogenies using molecular and morphological data, and including fossils of >20 extinct species. These phylogenies provide frameworks for investigating patterns and processes of ecological adaptation, speciation, and extinction across a hyperdiverse group of mammals.

    Historical Biogeography of the Antilles

    Historical Biogeography of the Antilles

    The project will generate hypotheses about the evolutionary relationships of 5 different groups of bats, each containing at least one exclusively Antillean species. These evolutionary relationships will then be used to establish the timing and pattern of separation among bat species in the Antilles and their South and Central American relatives, and will also be compared with similar hypotheses about other terrestrial organisms. Drs. Nancy Simmons, Rob DeSalle, and Liliana Davalos will use standard methods for obtaining and analyzing morphological and molecular data from the study groups. Patterns of evolutionary relationships resulting from these data will be compared applying at least 5 different approaches.

    A solution to the challenges of interdisciplinary aggregation and use of specimen-level trait data
    A solution to the challenges of interdisciplinary aggregation and use of specimen-level trait data

    Understanding variation of traits within and among species through time and across space is central to many questions in biology. Many resources assemble species-level trait data, but the data and metadata underlying those trait measurements are often not reported. Here, we introduce FuTRES (Functional Trait Resource for Environmental Studies; pronounced few- tress), an online datastore and community resource for individual-level trait reporting that utilizes a semantic framework. FuTRES already stores millions of trait measurements for paleobiological, zooarchaeological, and modern specimens, with a current focus on mammals. We compare dynamically-derived extant mammal species’ body size measurements in FuTRES with summary values from other compilations, highlighting potential issues with simply reporting a single mean estimate. We then show that individual-level data improves estimates of body mass – including uncertainty – for zooarchaeological specimens. FuTRES facilitates trait data integration and discoverability, accelerating new research agendas, especially scaling from intra- to interspecific trait variability.

    Ecological constraints on highly evolvable olfactory receptor genes and morphology in neotropical bats
    Ecological constraints on highly evolvable olfactory receptor genes and morphology in neotropical bats

    While evolvability of genes and traits may promote specialization during species diversification, how ecology subsequently restricts such variation remains unclear. Chemosensation requires animals to decipher a complex chemical background to locate fitness-related resources, and thus the underlying genomic architecture and morphology must cope with constant exposure to a changing odorant landscape; detecting adaptation amidst extensive chemosensory diversity is an open challenge. In phyllostomid bats, an ecologically diverse clade that evolved plant-visiting from an insectivorous ancestor, the evolution of novel food detection mechanisms is suggested to be a key innovation, as plant-visiting species rely strongly on olfaction, supplementarily using echolocation. If this is true, exceptional variation in underlying olfactory genes and phenotypes may have preceded dietary diversification. We compared olfactory receptor (OR) genes sequenced from olfactory epithelium transcriptomes and olfactory epithelium surface area of bats with differing diets. Surprisingly, although OR evolution rates were quite variable and generally high, they are largely independent of diet. Olfactory epithelial surface area, however, is relatively larger in plant-visiting bats and there is an inverse relationship between OR evolution rates and surface area. Relatively larger surface areas suggest greater reliance on olfactory detection and stronger constraint on maintaining an already diverse OR repertoire. Instead of the typical case in which specialization and elaboration are coupled with rapid diversification of associated genes, here the relevant genes are already evolving so quickly that increased reliance on smell has led to stabilizing selection, presumably to maintain the ability to consistently discriminate among specific odorants — a potential ecological constraint on sensory evolution.