Somatosensory cortical representation in the Australian ghost bat, Macroderma-Gigas
Bats of the two suborders Microchiroptera and Megachiroptera have a modified hand in which the digits of the forelimb are caudally oriented to form the wing. In a previous study of a megachiropteran species, this modification of body plan was found to be reflected in the somatosensory cortical representation such that the orientation of the digit representation was reversed compared with walking mammals. This finding suggests that the precise details of arrangement of topographical maps are functionally significant and do not merely reflect an order imposed by peripheral innervation. Recent evidence for separate origins of Microchiroptera and Megachiroptera raises the question o f whether the cortical somatosensory representation in Microchiroptera will also have a reversal of digit orientation compared with walking mammals. We recorded multiunit activity from the somatosensory cortex of a microchiropteran bat, Macroderma gigas. We found two orderly representations of the body surface, SI and SII, in both of which the digit orientation was opposite to the head orientation in accordance with adaptation for flight, and reversed with respect to equivalent maps in other mammals. We also found minor variations in body surface representation compared with Megachiroptera, in line with their proposed independent evolution.