The evolution of similar traits in different species, a process known as convergent evolution, is widespread not only physically but also at the genetic level, according to a new study led by scientists at Queen Mary University of London, in the UK, and published in this week’s edition of the journal Nature. These experts have found genetic similarities between bats and dolphins.
Scientists investigated the genomic basis for echolocation or echolocation, one of the best known examples of convergent evolution to examine the frequency of the process to a genomic level. Echolocation is a complex physical trait that involves the production, processing, receiving and hearing ultrasonic pulses to detect unseen obstacles or tracking prey and evolved separately in different groups of bats and whales .
The researchers conducted one of the largest analysis of its kind in the entire genome to discover the extent to which the convergent evolution of a physical characteristic involves the same genes. They compared the genomic sequences of 22 mammals, including the genomes of bats and dolphins, whose echolocation evolved independently, and found genetic patterns consistent with convergence in nearly 200 different genomic regions concentrated in several genes hearing.
To perform the analysis, the team had to sift through millions of letters of genetic code using a computer program developed to calculate the probability of convergent changes that occur by chance. To do this, they used a supercomputer of the School of Physics and Astronomy Queen Mary, called GridPP High Throughput Cluster.