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No. 46: Jul-Aug 1986

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Are fruit bats primates?

The profound differences between the fruit bat (megabats) and echo-locating, insect-eating bats (microbats) were mentioned above. The primate-like eye-brain system of the fruit bats suggests two possibilities:

1. Primitive bats first developed flight and then the fruit bats developed their primate-like eye-brain systems through "convergent evolution"; or

2. The fruit bats inherited their eye-brain system from closely re lated primates and then developed flight through "convergent evolu tion."

R.D. Martin, a physical anthropologist and author of this article, has reviewed the morphological characteristics of the fruit bats and primates. On this basis, he doubts that the fruit bats are pri-mates. Furthermore, molecular studies are also negative. Therefore, possibility #1 above is the more likely one.

(Martin, R.D.; "Are Fruit Bats Primates?" Nature, 320:482, 1986.)

Comment. In either case, #1 or #2, we must acknowledge convergent evolution and the likelihood that some subroutine in the genetic code repeats itself in divergent species. Speculative as always, we must ask if the genetic instructions for human or even superhuman intelligence do not reside dormant-for-now in other species.

Reference. For more on megabat similarities to primates, go to BMC4 in the catalog volume: Biological Anomalies: mammals II. Ordering information here.

Epaulleted fruit bat An epaulleted fruit bat. (Adapted from the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology)

From Science Frontiers #46, JUL-AUG 1986. � 1986-2000 William R. Corliss