Unveiling the amazing abilities of bats

The core purpose of the Bat1K project is to sequence the genome of all living bat species, which means more than 1300 different bat genomes. When the Bat1K project was started, it was divided into three phases to successfully run this very ambitious project. The first phase entails sequencing the genomes of representatives of the 21 families of bats. Obviously, this endeavor requires funding, and the Bat1K initiative has now achieved this goal.

Prof. Dr. Eugene Myers, one of the pioneers of bioinformatics, with the help of Prof. Dr. Emma Teeling and Dr. Sonja Vernes, has been successful in obtaining the support of the Max-Planck Gesellschaft (MPG) for phase 1 of the Bat1K project. Thanks to the MPG, funding for sequencing the representatives of the 21 bat families is now secure. A total of 562.000 Euro was given by the MPG. Sequencing itself will be carried out at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cellular Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) and the Center for Systems Biology Dresden (CSBD), using state-of-the-art-sequencing techniques. When completed, Phase 2 entails the sequencing representatives of the remaining 220 genera, whereas in Phase 3 finally, all other bat species will be sequenced.

Bat1K is a consortium, led by Prof. Dr. Emma Teeling (University College Dublin) and Dr. Sonja Vernes (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics), along with dozens of bat researchers worldwide. By sequencing the bat genome, the scientists hope to gain insights into some of the amazing abilities of bats, such as an almost perfect immune system, extraordinary longevity (bats are the longest-lived mammals relative to body size), vocal learning etc. The gained knowledge can help both to conserve species and to develop biomedical applications to human health. Along with discovering the genomic basis of these skills, the consortium also aims to educate the broad public about bats. Although bats are sometimes portrayed as pests, they provide key ecosystem functions, from pollination to pest insect control. The bat genomes help scientists to inform and educate about the true beauty and remarkable utilities of bats all across the world.

The people involved:

Prof. Dr. Emma Teeling is a founding director of the Bat1K project, and Research Group Leader of the Molecular Evolution and Mammalian Phylogenetics group at the University College Dublin, Ireland.

Dr. Sonja Vernes is a founding director of the Bat1K project, Max Planck Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and an affiliated principal investigator of the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

Prof. Dr. Eugene Myers is a Bat1K co-director, founding director of the Center for Systems Biology Dresden and managing director of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany.

About the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics

The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

About the MPI-CBG

The Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) is one of 84 institutes of the Max Planck Society, an independent, non-profit organization in Germany. 500 curiosity-driven scientists from over 50 countries ask: How do cells form tissues? The basic research programs of the MPI-CBG span multiple scales of magnitude, from molecular assemblies to organelles, cells, tissues, organs, and organisms.

About the CSBD

The Center for Systems Biology Dresden (CSBD) is a cooperation between the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG), the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems (MPI-PKS) and the TU Dresden. The interdisciplinary center brings physicists, computer scientists, mathematicians and biologists together. The scientists develop theoretical and computational approaches to biological systems across different scales, from molecules to cells and from cells to tissues.

About the University College Dublin

Research and innovation are essential drivers of a dynamic economy, an informed society and a vibrant culture. The spectrum of research and innovation at UCD encompasses individual scholars, research groups, start-up companies and large-scale collaborations with industry and other partners. Research is conducted within each of the University’s extensive range of disciplines, and in multidisciplinary research programmes addressing challenges of global scale.

More information? Get in touch with Bat1K to learn more about the consortium, their projects and ideas under
Check out their social media: Twitter: @bat1kgenomes &
For more information about the Max Planck Gesellschaft, see here.

Katharina Foreman
Bat1K Administrative Assistant
Wundtlaan 1
6525 XD Nijmegen
The Netherlands