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article imageWhy bats don’t crash into each other is revealed

By Tim Sandle     Apr 25, 2015 in Science
This may seem like the start of a riddle, but why don’t bats fly into each other? The answer lies in bats seemingly following some agreed rules of the air.
So it would seem that people are not the only animals to follow traffic rules. Bats may also engage in behaviors that observe the “rules of the road” (or rather of the sky.)
To establish this apparent behavioral pattern, researchers monitored the echolocation activities of Daubenton’s bats (Myotis daubentonii). Here it was found that once a bat locks on to a peer’s sonar calls, the bat copies its movements to within a few wingbeats, thereby avoiding a messy mid-air collision.
Daubenton's bat is a Eurasian bat with quite short ears. It ranges from Britain to Japan (Hokkaido) and is considered to be increasing its numbers in many areas. The bat mainly eats small flies, especially chironomid midges.
By undertaking this activity the bats avoid colliding in mid-air. The bats are able to chase each other, swoop one after another and bank to avoid crashing. The research revealed that foraging pairs of bats flying over a water surface swapped leader-follower roles and performed chases or coordinated manoeuvres by copying the heading a nearby individual has had up to 500 meters earlier.
This relates back to earlier studies that show that bats possess a complex neural compass that tracks their movements as they expertly crawl on walls or fly through their environment
The new findings have been reported to the journal PLOS Computational Biology. The research paper is titled “Delayed Response and Biosonar Perception Explain Movement Coordination in Trawling Bats.”
In related bat news, numbers of bats from the most common species found in the Europe are reported to be stable or increasing following several years of decline. The rise in bat populations has come from a key citizen science project.
More about Bats, Radar, Sonar, Flight
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