"Some question whether echolocation 60 million years ago would've been too sophisticated," said Brock Fenton, of the University of Western Ontario.
The scientists who discovered Onychonycteris finneyi, the oldest known bat fossil (above), concluded that the prehistoric species could fly but that the sonar sense didn't evolve until later.
However, Fenton and colleagues recently published a study in Nature that has reinvigorated the echolocation-versus-flying timeline debate.
Using 3-D scans from multiple bat species, Fenton identified a specific anatomical feature near the animal's voice box that facilitates echolocation.
RELATED: Bats Hear Just Fine, Despite Noisy Lives
"In any echolocating bat, the stylohyal bone is at least physically touching or even fused to the tympanic bone," Fenton said.
When scientists examined O. finneyi, as part of the study, their results suggested that the ancient species may have also shared that same echolocating bone structure.
"The problem is," Fenton told Discovery News, "it's a pancake fossil," meaning it's difficult to distinguish the exact bone structure since the artifact became flattened over time.