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Just a Few Bats

A team of Korean researchers has sequenced the genome of Myotis rufoniger, a rare endangered bat. Only some 500 of these bats are thought to live in the wild in South Korea.

As Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology's Jong Bhak and colleagues report in PLOS One this week, they sequenced the bat using the Illumina HiSeq2000 platform and estimated the M. rufoniger genome was 1.88 Gb in size.

The researchers further homed in on genes that might be responsible for M. rufoniger's red color. A functional enrichment analysis uncovered changes in the melanin-linked DCT, SLC45A2, TYRP1, and OCA2 genes that appeared to also lead to amino acid changes. They also reported that M. rufoniger harbors bat-specific genetic alterations in FSHB, IGF1R, TP53, and SLC45A2, among others that have been linked to delayed ovulation, long lifespan, powered flight, echolocation, and low vision in bats.

Bhak and colleagues also estimated the M. rufoniger effective population size to find that it has been in decline for the past 30,000 years and that M. rufoniger appears to have the smallest population of all Myotis bats.

"The primary reason for the rapid decline in the population of bats is due to very recent human encroachment into and destruction of wildlife," Bhak says in a statement. "Further studies are needed to determine if the declining bat populations in the present study is a bat-wide phenomenon, as well as to find out what are the possible ways to prevent the rapid decline in bat populations."