Singapore, Jan 8 - Robust immunity may explain why bats are capable of sustained flights, the only one among mammals to fly, and not their high metabolism as thought earlier, says a new study.
However, high metabolism also boosts output of DNA-mutating free radicals. The research found bats have evolved gene variants that minimise and repair DNA - damage and also provides protection against viruses.
A team led by Lin-Fa Wang, professor at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School -, Singapore, has found that the evolution of flight in bats may have contributed to the development of a robust immune system, allowing bats to harbour some of the world's deadliest viruses such as Ebola and SARS, the journal Science reports.
Wang and colleagues used a state-of-the-art whole-genome sequencing technique to analyse the genomes of two distantly-related bat species.
They are the black flying fox, a species native to Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia and the insect-eating bat Myotis davidii or David's mouse-eared bat, endemic to China, according to a Duke-NUS statement.
This is the first in-depth study of bat genomes. Our study provided important genomics insights into the unique biological features of bats, said Wang, an expert in bat-borne viruses.
The large collaborative team from China, Denmark, Australia, US and Singapore compared the two bat genomes with the genomes of other mammals and found genetic clues that may account for the unique characteristics of bats.