Duke Lemur Center

The Evolution Of Bats

Nov 13, 2015
Gregg Gunnell studies bat fossils, a relatively small field given the small amount of bat fossils that exist. Experts still don't know the evolutionary origin of bats.
Grand Canyon National Park / Flickr Creative Commons

Scientists have found bat fossils dating back 55 million years ago, but they still do not know the genesis of their evolution. As time passed since those early bats, the animals found little competition during the night and proliferated.

Bats currently comprise 20 percent of all mammals. There are many types of bats, from the insect-eating to the fruit-eating to the blood-sucking vampire bats. These creatures are also the only mammals with powered flight or a sophisticated echolocation system. 

This is the story of how Jovian, a Coquerel’s sifaka, became the the "leaping, prancing otherworldly star" of the PBS KIDS show Zoboomafoo. Jovian died Monday at the Duke Lemur Center. He was 20 years old.

lemur with white head and body, brown arms and dark facial markings
David Haring / http://lemur.duke.edu

Sixty-five million years ago, ancestors of lemurs journeyed from Africa to Madagascar on a raft of vegetation. This explanation for their arrival, now widely accepted, was the dissertation of Anne Yoder, director of the Duke Lemur Center. It is also the subject of a new IMAX movie, "Island of Lemurs: Madagascar." Many of the lemurs that star in the film are Durham residents who were trained locally by behavioral manager Meg Dye. 

David Haring / Duke Lemur Center

Lemur couples with infants start to smell alike. Oh sure, they smelled differently before they had offspring. But pretty soon, the lemur lovers start mirroring each other's scents. Even their "scent-marking" odor begins to change. Researchers think the change in scent could be a way to mark territory, or it could be a way to advertise their relationship to all the other would-be mates.

The study findings are in the  February issue of  Animal Behavior.

A Coquerel's Sifaka lemur at the Duke Lemur Center.
Laura Candler

Researchers at Duke University say studying hibernation in a certain species of lemur is giving them a better understanding of how sleep might help people with serious injuries or diseases. 

A Coquerel's Sifaka lemur at the Duke Lemur Center.
Laura Candler

A Walking with Lemurs tour at the Duke Lemur Center might just seem like an ordinary walk through the woods at first. But at the rustle of a food bucket, tiny, energetic animals begin to descend from the treetops, and you know you’re not walking in any normal forest. Lemurs zip past you at will, some of them with tiny infants clinging to their backs, and there are no barriers between you and the furry primates.