When Bats Took Flight

  • Published: 12 September 2019
  • Bats pretty much appear in the fossil record as recognizable, full-on, flying bats. And they show up on all of the continents, except Antarctica, around the same time. So where did bats come from? And which of the many weird features that bats have, showed up first?

    Thanks to Ceri Thomas for the early bat illustrations! Check out more of Ceri's paleoart at http://alphynix.tumblr.com

    Produced in collaboration with PBS Digital Studios: http://youtube.com/pbsdigitalstudios

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    References: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1VPccWSNkODzBifBt4R-RI8nApVRKe5pSfG8qeouiZqE/edit?usp=sharing
  • Science and Technology Science and Technology

Comments • 1 266

  • Allan Molina
    Allan Molina  3 days back

    I am Batman

    • ksiit117
      ksiit117  4 days back

      Doesn’t seem like the best science education to ask us which method we support when we have had a 10 minute introduction to the topic rather than from reading the scientific literature regarding it. I mean science doesn’t care about our opinion and just because the first explanation seemed to make the most sense to me doesn’t mean it happened that way. Especially relating to evolution where we keep figuring out that things are weird and surprising.

      • Sidhan Singh
        Sidhan Singh  6 days back

        Why don't we ask batman. ..may be he knows more about bats than us

        • Mickle Pickle078
          Mickle Pickle078  6 days back

          It does make sense that bats come from the group laurasiatheria. If u think about it and look at the bone structure of the bat and whale, they kinda look similar

          • Light Shocker
            Light Shocker  7 days back

            what if the whales ancestor was able to fly
            and also dolphins are able to echolocation and both dolphins and whales are closely related then that explains why they are closely related.

            • edward
              edward  7 days back

              Love the tattoo.

              • Moe
                Moe  1 weeks back

                Bats begins

                • TYTO
                  TYTO  1 weeks back

                  I just want to say that the fossil specimen at 3:48 is genuinely amazing... I cant get over how well preserved it is. 😮

                  • Metaphysics
                    Metaphysics  2 weeks back

                    Batman nanananananananananna

                    • legendary petz
                      legendary petz  2 weeks back


                      • Jacob Staten
                        Jacob Staten  2 weeks back

                        New topic idea; is it possible for two separate species to reach enough genetic similarities to be able. To reproduce and form a new species (not mules)?
                        I want bat men.

                        • xxWingedGachaxx
                          xxWingedGachaxx  2 weeks back

                          What's up with the names? They be like tongue twisters

                          • Kyle Adrien
                            Kyle Adrien  2 weeks back

                            Prehistoric animals are incredible to think about. Imagine if some of these were still around

                            • Neek'lahs
                              Neek'lahs  2 weeks back

                              Maybe they develop both skills and then over time some species lose echolocation depending on their lifestyle.

                              • Michael Maddox
                                Michael Maddox  2 weeks back

                                Flight had to be first as a way to escape predators. Later they became nocturnal. Why? Because they are smaller than most birds of prey and probably found it hard to compete so... they became nocturnal and developed echo location to become more efficient at hunting at night. This is my theory despite the word usage that express facts. Lol

                                • Piarou
                                  Piarou  2 weeks back

                                  Wow. Now I have watched all episodes up to this one, and this is the very first time a still-living animal was mentioned that I didn't know of. Colugo?? WTF. How have you escaped my attention, little flying fake-lemur?

                                  Thanks, PBS. I have learned so much, as usual. :D <3

                                  • Falckie Falcon
                                    Falckie Falcon  2 weeks back

                                    Ever since I read darkwing from the silverwing series I've always been interested in how bats evolved

                                    • Anna Noble
                                      Anna Noble  2 weeks back

                                      I have heard rumors (so take this with a grain of salt) of a late Cretaceous tooth from Argentina that resembles that of a bat's, so perhaps the molecular clock studies are not far off!

                                      • D2attemp
                                        D2attemp  3 weeks back

                                        Anyone read Kenneth Oppel’s book Darkwing

                                        • Jamie Bond
                                          Jamie Bond  3 weeks back

                                          Why do fossils get Latin names??

                                          • TiagoTiago
                                            TiagoTiago  3 weeks back

                                            Wasn't there something about fruitbats not being related to the other bats, and just looking similar because of convergent evolution?

                                            • TiagoTiago
                                              TiagoTiago  3 weeks back

                                              How can they know the ancient bats were nocturnal?

                                              • Jackie Santos
                                                Jackie Santos  3 weeks back

                                                Interesting but that's related to rats well yeah Troy's sub specie tired well probably not they know bats are related to whales

                                                • Ican FeeLIt
                                                  Ican FeeLIt  3 weeks back

                                                  what if they came from the same rat that became dolphins

                                                • 49erfaithful
                                                  49erfaithful  3 weeks back

                                                  also u should make a super in depth video about quetzalcoatlus cuz that would be awesome

                                                  • 49erfaithful
                                                    49erfaithful  3 weeks back

                                                    can u guys make a series where in each (largest chalicothores/giant sloths ever)episode its like a mini-documentary and is a few hours long and talks about a certain period of time like the Triassic or something and all the animals that lived at that time like dinosaurs, giant reptiles and so many more and about the food chain what it was like for the plants how earth was, etc. and than u could go to another period like when the bone-crushing dogs lived or giant bears or mammoths or sabertooths or the largest gorillas/apes ever or titanoboa or the giant turtle or whatever and than do an episode there cuz that would be awesome and then u could do one on an extinction event and it all these episodes would be like hours long hopefully lol or do one of these on a single animal/species like a titanoboa or desmostylia but this one could only be 45 mins long or something

                                                    • Adnaan Ahmed
                                                      Adnaan Ahmed  3 weeks back

                                                      Will you do episodes on spiders and manta rays?

                                                      • TrytheGreenOne
                                                        TrytheGreenOne  3 weeks back

                                                        I thought it was strange they automatically assumed the early bat ancestors were nocturnal, enough to debunk the flight learning hypothesis. I think it's likely they learned flight as diurnal animals and slowly got edged out by competition(birds, predators) to a less populated niche. And still some bats today aren't nocturnal. Here's an article I found that on some islands where bats didn't have much competition/predators, they may hunt and fly during the day


                                                        • Matthew Britton
                                                          Matthew Britton  3 weeks back

                                                          I would love to see an entire Eons series on nothing but the fossils/ecosystems of the Green River Formation.

                                                          • ADB1979 Thatcher
                                                            ADB1979 Thatcher  3 weeks back

                                                            Analogy and observation: It is almost certain that the better, finer and more agile use of the Human hand evolved at the same time as Humans evolved to walk on two feet, this hypothesis is constantly gaining momentum and more evidence to back it up. To do your own research, simply watch a toddler learn to walk and simultaneously gain a considerable amount of dexterity in the hands as the hands become free for other tasks, this continues into childhood and perhaps adulthood.

                                                            Back to the subject of Bats... IMHO, it is very likely that Bats evolved the use of Ultrasound simultaneously with the use of flight, and (has not been mentioned in this video) their (often) nocturnal behaviour, which would preclude the use of eyesight for finding insect food, thus a new method evolved to replace the evolutionary "loss" of daytime (and general) eyesight (on many bat species/families).

                                                            It seems logical that: eyesight, hearing/echolocation and flight all evolved simultaneously, although it also seems obvious that species of bats that hunt insects at night rather than fruit have different eyesight qualities, and likewise hearing/echolocation qualities.

                                                            • David Gregory
                                                              David Gregory  3 weeks back

                                                              Bats and whales are related huh...

                                                              • Grant Cirks
                                                                Grant Cirks  3 weeks back

                                                                This video was so interesting! This topic was something I didnt know I wanted to learn about so I'm thankful for you guys!

                                                                • Imagine Dinosaurs
                                                                  Imagine Dinosaurs  3 weeks back

                                                                  Bats were Very Common in the Eocene Epoch

                                                                  • Purrla Bunny
                                                                    Purrla Bunny  4 weeks back

                                                                    well i mean, maybe they became nocturnal after they learned to fly... don't quote me though i only know about what you've talked about XD

                                                                    • song dot land
                                                                      song dot land  4 weeks back

                                                                      Wonderful episode. I'm fascinated by bats. They seem to have such a different evolution from other mammals, it still ends in a mystery.

                                                                      Also, you are my favorite Eons host. I watch Sci Show, etc., but having a female host (if you identify that way) means so much. Thank you for your work. Stay strong, and please stay present.

                                                                      • K Ash
                                                                        K Ash  4 weeks back

                                                                        That was incredibly interesting. Thank you!

                                                                        • Michael Schmitt
                                                                          Michael Schmitt  4 weeks back

                                                                          Very interesting (as usual). Nice that you show that some questions of evolution are still wide open (even if the fact of evolution is not!).

                                                                          • Scott D
                                                                            Scott D  4 weeks back

                                                                            Imo if their method of eating insects WAS efficient they wouldn't have had to evolve. Right?

                                                                            • Dakke Fernet
                                                                              Dakke Fernet  4 weeks back

                                                                              It's simple.

                                                                              They came from hell

                                                                              • andyjay729
                                                                                andyjay729  4 weeks back

                                                                                Oh, and speaking of primates, guess what non-primates we're closest related to? Rodents and rabbits.

                                                                                • andyjay729
                                                                                  andyjay729  4 weeks back

                                                                                  Let's just call bats flying doggos.

                                                                                  • Fernandes Fusion
                                                                                    Fernandes Fusion  4 weeks back

                                                                                    Bats :"Land so boring,lets fly

                                                                                    • eliman Designs
                                                                                      eliman Designs  4 weeks back

                                                                                      *Please let us know what you think.
                                                                                      We won't give you any credit for your ideas and won't aknowlege that you exist.
                                                                                      Thanks a lot guys.
                                                                                      It makes sense that they would gain echolocation from flight because the act of echolocating seems to be something that would happen during flight in areas of open air.

                                                                                      • Orkun Berk B
                                                                                        Orkun Berk B  4 weeks back

                                                                                        Bats without flight = Not Exist
                                                                                        Bats without Ecolocation = Exist
                                                                                        Yes this is an oversimplication but i think flight first, ecolocation then

                                                                                        • Rudolph Antler
                                                                                          Rudolph Antler  4 weeks back

                                                                                          So flying squirrels get no love?

                                                                                          • Steve Knight
                                                                                            Steve Knight  4 weeks back

                                                                                            Researchers need to look at the Australian Sugar glider

                                                                                            • SuperBat
                                                                                              SuperBat  4 weeks back

                                                                                              I was there when rat grew wings.

                                                                                              • loner844
                                                                                                loner844  4 weeks back

                                                                                                personally, I like the idea that bats evolved to fly first, and then became nocturnal and thus began to evolve echolocation as a result. There's no definite evidence for it, but I think it's a solid theory