A Cluster of Olfactory Receptor Genes Linked to Frugivory in Bats


Diversity of the mammalian olfactory receptor (OR) repertoire has been globally reshaped by niche specialization. However, little is known about the variability of the OR repertoire at a shallower evolutionary timeframe. The vast bat radiation exhibits an extraordinary variety of trophic and sensory specializations. Unlike other mammals, bats possess a unique and diverse OR gene repertoire. We elucidated whether the evolution of the OR gene repertoire can be linked to ecological niche specializations, such as sensory modalities and diet. The OR gene repertoires of 27 bat species spanning the chiropteran radiation were amplified and sequenced. For each species, intact and nonfunctional genes were assessed, and the OR gene abundances in each gene family were analyzed and compared. We identified a unique OR pattern linked to the frugivorous diet of New World fruit-eating bats and a similar convergent pattern in the Old World fruit-eating bats. Our results show a strong association between niche specialization and OR repertoire diversity even at a shallow evolutionary timeframe.

Molecular Biology and Evolution 31(4), 917-927. *Equal contribution
Liliana M. Dávalos
Liliana M. Dávalos
Professor of Conservation Biology

I’m interested in biodiversity, both its past and its future.