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Background: How migration evolved represents one of the most poignant questions in evolutionary biology. While studies on the evolution of migration in birds are well represented in the literature, migration in bats has received relatively little attention. Yet, more than 30 species of bats are known to migrate annually from breeding to non-breeding locations. Our study is the first to test hypotheses on the evolutionary history of migration in bats using a phylogenetic framework. Methods and Principal Findings: In addition to providing a review of bat migration in relation to existing hypotheses on the evolution of migration in birds, we use a previously published supertree to formulate and test hypotheses on the evolutionary history of migration in bats. Our results suggest that migration in bats has evolved independently in several lineages potentially as the need arises to track resources (food, roosting site) but not through a series of steps from short- to long-distance migrants, as has been suggested for birds. Moreover, our analyses do not indicate that migration is an ancestral state but has relatively recently evolved in bats. Our results also show that migration is significantly less likely to evolve in cave roosting bats than in tree roosting species. Conclusions and Significance: This is the first study to provide evidence that migration has evolved independently in bat lineages that are not closely related. If migration evolved as a need to track seasonal resources or seek adequate roosting sites, climate change may have a pivotal impact on bat migratory habits. Our study provides a strong framework for future research on the evolution of migration in chiropterans. © 2009 Bisson et al.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume4
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes
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