The 2003 discovery of an early fossil bat from the 52 million year old Green River Formation, Onychonycteris finneyi, indicates that flight evolved before echolocative abilities. Onychonycteris had claws on all five of its fingers, whereas modern bats have at most two claws on two digits of each hand. It also had longer hind legs and shorter forearms, similar to climbing mammals that hang under branches, such as sloths and gibbons. This palm-sized bat had short, broad wings, suggesting that it could not fly as fast or as far as later bat species. Instead of flapping its wings continuously while flying, Onychonycteris probably alternated between flaps and glides in the air. This suggests that this bat did not fly as much as modern bats, but flew from tree to tree and spent most of its time climbing or hanging on branches. The distinctive features of the Onychonycteris fossil also support the hypothesis that mammalian flight most likely evolved in arboreal locomotors, rather than terrestrial runners. This model of flight development, commonly known as the "trees-down" theory, holds that bats first flew by taking advantage of height and gravity to drop down on to prey, rather than running fast enough for a ground-level take off.
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