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Bat study reveals influences on brain organisation
Edyptian fruit bats use their tongue for echolocation, and can aim soner beams in different directions by moving their tongue.
The species' brains are highly specialised for echolocation.

Scientists have demonstrated how Egyptian fruit bats have brains that are highly specialised for echolocation and flight.

Researchers from the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) and UC Berkeley in the United States mapped the full motor cortex of the bats' brain, and found that motor areas of the cerebral cortex were dedicated to sonar production and wing control. 

Using electrodes to stimulate various areas of the motor cortex in anaesthetised bats, researchers determined muscle and limb movements, countering traditional theories that motor cortex organisation assumes individual muscles are represented in the motor cortex.

Professor Leah Krubitzer explained: “What we have found instead is that brain areas represent common synergies of muscles, rather than individual muscles.”

In the study, the researchers said: “We found that movement representations include an enlarged tongue region containing discrete subregions devoted to generating distinct tongue movement types, consistent with their behavioral specialization generating active sonar using tongue clicks.

“We also found a novel degree of coactivation between the forelimbs and hindlimbs, both of which are involved in altering the shape and tension of wing membranes during flight. 

“Together, these findings suggest that the organization of motor cortex has coevolved with peripheral morphology in bats to support the unique motor demands of flight and echolocation.”

Examining how the bats' brains were organised with complex movements across various regions of the body, researchers displayed evidence for the influence of evolution and development on brain organisation.

Krubitzer added: “Looking at brain organization in a wide variety of mammals helps us better understand our own brains.

“When we can look across species, it becomes a really powerful approach for making extrapolations to the human condition.”

Published in Current Biology, the study can be accessed here - the full text is placed behind a paywall.

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Avian flu outbreak at RSPB Minsmere

News Story 1
 RSPB Minsmere nature reserve in Suffolk has confirmed an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza on its site. The coastal nature reserve has seen an increase in dead birds recently, and has said that it is 'extremely concerned' about the potential impacts on bird populations, with 2021 and 2022 seeing the largest ever outbreak in the UK.

In a statement, RSPB said: "We appreciate that it is distressing, for both visitors and staff, to see dead or dying birds at our site but we ask that if visitors see any dead or unwell birds, they do not touch or go near them and that they report it to us at our Visitor Centre during its opening hours, or by emailing us on minsmere@rspb.org.uk outside of these times."  

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Moredun Foundation Award opens for applications

The 2022-2023 Moredun Foundation Award (MFA) is now open for members, with up to £2,000 available for successful applicants.

The MFA honours the contribution that education, teamwork, life experience, and travel have made to the understanding of cattle health and welfare. Through its charitable endeavours, Moredun offers its members the opportunity to pursue projects that support personal development.

The prize is open to a wide range of project applications, including those that include producing educational tools, conducting a small research project, or studying farming methods in other nations. For more information and to apply, visit moredun.org.uk