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Bats Flying in Slow Motion
March 20, 2009 10:04 AM   Subscribe

How To Be A Bat [Life in Motion] Carl Zimmer has a lengthy post about Bats over at Discover magazine's website. Several slow motion videos of bat flight including a cool matlabish model of a bat flight vortex. As with all flying takoffs are optional and landings are mandatory so they also have slow motion video of two point and four point landings as well as well as some more pedestrian videos.
posted by srboisvert (21 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
As with all flying takoffs are optional and landings are mandatory

Simply not true. Sometimes the bat goes up, but never comes down.
posted by dersins at 10:10 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually, Thomas Nagel argues that there's no way we could ever know what it's like to be a bat.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:14 AM on March 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


1) Carl Zimmer is a good science writer. He doesn't spend 5 paragraphs at the front on irrelevant setup. He gets right into the science.

2) Those videos are great. You can see the fluorescent light flickering in one of them for scale.

3) That same video has a hovering bat. Whoa! "A hovering bat use 60% less energy than a hovering hummingbird." Wowee.

4) A walking bat? Oh cool, it's like the best of both OH SWEET JEBUS KILL IT WITH FIRE!
posted by DU at 10:23 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Evolution of the bat.
posted by DU at 10:24 AM on March 20, 2009


Great post.

Riskin found that New Zealand short-tailed bats walk comfortably on a treadmill, using the same pendulum-like movements that other walking mammals use to save on energy. But when other mammals have to move faster, they break into a run so that they can store extra energy in their tendons as they hit the ground.

So that's one of the big things that make running possible? You save some of the bouncing up and down energy and pass it on to the next cycle?

How strange, that would seem to make throwing, which also stores lots of energy in tendons, a form of running or jumping for those of us with only two legs-- one of the ways us bipeds have made use of previous evolutionary adaptations which would otherwise have been rendered useless by the switch to upright posture.

That's certainly how throwing feels to me: like jumping.
posted by jamjam at 10:41 AM on March 20, 2009


This is so cool. I love bats. The video of the bat walking is a little creepy though.
posted by gagglezoomer at 10:43 AM on March 20, 2009


Interesting, thanks.
*thinks*
Will they make nano-bats like the minuscule flying robots in The Diamond Age?
posted by asok at 10:56 AM on March 20, 2009


I wonder if the two-point-landing bats make snide mocking comments to the four-point-landing bats. "That's right, Carl, 'safety first,' just like Daddy taught you on your first flying lesson."

(Cool post--to which I obviously have important insights to add).
posted by yoink at 11:04 AM on March 20, 2009


...which also stores lots of energy in tendons, a form of running or jumping for those of us with only two legs...

If you watch slow motion video of a cheetah, you can see it's back bending backwards at each "step". If you turned the cheetah 90 degrees (so the front paws are pointing towards the sky), it would kind of look like a plastic spoon bent back with a pea all set to be launched at your brother.
posted by DU at 11:15 AM on March 20, 2009


Very cool. There's also some very cool acoustic research going on right now with regards to echolocation and the 'loudness' of their calls.

And to answer to asok, is that they're already working on it:

"In fact, Surlykke and her colleagues are helping develop robots that mimic bats. These machines could employ sonar to either complement their vision or work "in situations where vision is infeasible," Surlykke explained."
posted by batboy at 11:19 AM on March 20, 2009


Wow, that is mind bending. Thanks so much for posting it.

Tracking what each of those joints do would give an animator fits for months.
posted by lumpenprole at 11:41 AM on March 20, 2009


Okay, who else was making little whooshy sound effects?
posted by bettafish at 11:48 AM on March 20, 2009


If you watch slow motion video of a cheetah, you can see it's back bending backwards at each "step". If you turned the cheetah 90 degrees (so the front paws are pointing towards the sky), it would kind of look like a plastic spoon bent back with a pea all set to be launched at your brother.

You know, I have never really understood how a cheetah can do what it does when it is so swaybacked that it's spine is almost a catenary, like a slack rope between two poles or the big cables of the Golden Gate bridge.

And your comment does make me think that bats may have found a novel way of storing energy for the next cycle of locomotion-- in the stretched membranes between the struts of their wings. As I visualize it, when the bat flaps its wings down as far as they will go, the stretched membranes will expel the air which has distended them, and that in turn will tend to fling the bat's wings back upward, giving it a big head start on the next stroke.
posted by jamjam at 12:30 PM on March 20, 2009


From batboy's link:

"For years it's been difficult to get accurate readings on how intense bat calls were," said University of Western Ontario behavioral ecologist Brock Fenton, who also did not participate in this study. "Now we see they're putting out a lot of energy."

Still, as powerful as these bat calls got, they did not help bats detect prey any farther away.

Surlykke and her colleagues suspect the different bat species each chose their own sound frequencies to screech at so as to not interfere with the others. The bats that end up with the high frequencies that fade most over distance have to scream more powerfully than ever. The loudest bat studied — the greater bulldog bat (Noctilio leporinus) — squeaked at high sound frequencies more easily dissipated by the air.


They write like this is a bug, but I think it's actually a feature. It's not mentioned in this article, but I've read elsewhere that echolocation is only good for distances of about a foot because of the extremely high rates of dispersion of very high frequencies. But if those frequencies carried the way sounds in the speech range do, insects would soon evolve to stop flying or leave whenever they heard those frequencies. As things stand they can't do that, because by the time they could hear it, the bat is on top of them, and it wouldn't do any good.
posted by jamjam at 12:58 PM on March 20, 2009


but I've read elsewhere that echolocation is only good for distances of about a foot because of the extremely high rates of dispersion of very high frequencies.

That explains one of my life's mysterious. When cycling home from college in Ottawa I had a stretch through the woods and at night bats used to bounce off my helmet. I always wondered how that could happen.
posted by srboisvert at 1:29 PM on March 20, 2009


He was only one bat, but he had a dream.

Okay, sorry, really, but it's Friday and stuff.
posted by jokeefe at 2:08 PM on March 20, 2009


"Bats: the big bug scourge of the skies!"

"BATS ARE NOT BUGS!!!"

/calvin and hobbes
posted by nosila at 3:02 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


That was fantastic!

I loved the walking Vampire because I gallop like that in my dreams when I need to move quickly.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:22 PM on March 20, 2009


Gaaah! Freaky walking bats! I had never been scared of bats until last summer -- I always thought they were just like bald flying mice, and mice don't scare me -- but then a rabid bat bit me on the toe in my sleep. Now I recognize how how terrible those little hellions are. All the windows and doors to my room were closed at the time of the biting. That means that either the bat turned into mist and seeped through the crack under the door, bats can spawn from dirty laundry like anatiferous tree-geese, or I made it with my mind while I was sleeping. I didn't know that bats had supernatural powers like that. And now it turns out that they can run? I'm never sleeping again.
posted by painquale at 5:32 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


bald flying mice

I can't tell you how often I have to tell the mice that live under my roof to get haircuts. I can't tell the girls from the boys! And don't get me started about their loud music.
posted by DU at 7:25 PM on March 20, 2009


The French agree with you!
posted by painquale at 9:07 PM on March 20, 2009


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