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Mol Biol Evol. 2015 May;32(5):1237-41. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msv014. Epub 2015 Jan 27.

No genome-wide protein sequence convergence for echolocation.

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Department of Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


Toothed whales and two groups of bats independently acquired echolocation, the ability to locate and identify objects by reflected sound. Echolocation requires physiologically complex and coordinated vocal, auditory, and neural functions, but the molecular basis of the capacity for echolocation is not well understood. A recent study suggested that convergent amino acid substitutions widespread in the proteins of echolocators underlay the convergent origins of mammalian echolocation. Here, we show that genomic signatures of molecular convergence between echolocating lineages are generally no stronger than those between echolocating and comparable nonecholocating lineages. The same is true for the group of 29 hearing-related proteins claimed to be enriched with molecular convergence. Reexamining the previous selection test reveals several flaws and invalidates the asserted evidence for adaptive convergence. Together, these findings indicate that the reported genomic signatures of convergence largely reflect the background level of sequence convergence unrelated to the origins of echolocation.


bat; convergent evolution; dolphin; neutral evolution

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