MAR 27, 2015 06:08 AM PDT

Bats Follow the Leader With Sonar Signals

When bats take wing looking for food, they're often at close quarters with one another, and a new study has determined how they maneuver at high speeds without crashing into each other.

In research published today in PLOS Computation Biology, University of Bristol, U.K., researchers concluded that bats avoid collisions thanks to one simple practice: listen in on a nearby bat and copy the route it has just taken.

To determine their surroundings bats use echolocation, or biosonar -- sending out high-pitched calls and then using the returning echoes to effectively map out what's up ahead. Marc Holderied, of Bristol's School of Biological Sciences, recorded video of the flight trajectories and interactions of these echolocating fliers -- specifically, pairs of Daubenton's bats (Myotis daubentonii) -- while they foraged for insects over low water. Holderied and his team then used modeling tools and mathematical functions to measure the calls of interacting pairs of bats and compare the flight headings of one bat vs. the other for select time intervals.
A foraging bat and his wingman hunt for food
The team found that the bats were observing what they termed "traffic rules" -- slowing down to avoid collisions, swapping follower and leader roles, making tandem turns and chasing each other.

How did they do all of this precision flying without accidents? The scientists found that the bats copied each other's flight headings, taking readings that happened just 500 milliseconds prior -- or only slightly more time than it takes for a human eye to blink.

"The bats seem to have adopted a simple trick: once another individual is close enough for your biosonar to pick up its echo, copy this individual's flight direction within four to five of your own wingbeats," Holderied explained in a news release.

Research team member Luca Giuggioli, from Bristol's Center for Complexity Sciences, pointed out that a better understanding of bats' movement decisions during foraging had implications outside of animal science.

"By employing movement strategies that nature has optimized over millions of years, engineers may be able to improve the efficiency of search and rescue missions, monitoring tasks, and surveillance operations in the emerging market of flying drones and autonomous moving vehicles," Giuggioli said.

(Source: Discovery News)
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
NOV 12, 2018
Plants & Animals
NOV 12, 2018
Steaks Aren't the Only Things We Get From Cows
It’s no secret that cows are routinely slaughtered for beef, but what if we told you that only about 60% of the cow gets harvested for food? Fret not...
NOV 25, 2018
Technology
NOV 25, 2018
Designing Leaping Robots Inspired from Jumping Aquatic Animals
Curious about the physical conditions that enable aquatic animals to leap out of water in such a graceful manner—researchers at Cornell University we...
NOV 26, 2018
Plants & Animals
NOV 26, 2018
More Than 145 Whales Found Beached in New Zealand
Whale strandings have become quite the frequent occurrence in New Zealand, but a massive stranding reported over the weekend that involved at least 145 pil...
NOV 27, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
NOV 27, 2018
Unraveling the Secret Behind the Strength of Spider Web
You don't need to watch a Spider-Man movie to notice how tough a spider web can be. Made of fiber-based spider silk, the seemingly fragile structure ca...
NOV 27, 2018
Plants & Animals
NOV 27, 2018
Social Spiders Lose Their Minds After Meeting This Parasitoid Wasp
A curious team of researchers from the University of British Columbia was purportedly studying Anelosimus eximius spider nests in Ecuador in an effort to l...
JAN 09, 2019
Plants & Animals
JAN 09, 2019
Study Analyzes Elephant Movement Patterns Relative to Resource Availability
The world and its many landscapes are continuously changing, so it should come as no surprise that wild animals follow suit in order to adjust to the dynam...
Loading Comments...