Bats rule the night skies, using the power of echolocation, or reflected sound. More than 1,000 species of echolocating bats exist, compared to just 80 species of nocturnal non-echolocating birds. It seems that normal vision works in tandem with echolocation to give bats an evolutionary edge, however, no one knows exactly how.
A new study, led by Arjan Boonman and Yossi Yovel of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Zoology, suggests that bats use vision to keep track of where they are going and echolocation to hunt tiny insects that are invisible to most nocturnal predators. Published in Frontiers of Physiology, the study results add to our understanding of sensory evolution. “Imagine driving down the highway: Everything is clear in the distance, but objects are a blur when you pass them,” said Dr. Boonman. “Well, echolocation gives bats the unique ability to home in on small objects — mostly insects — while flying at high speeds.”
“We believe that bats are constantly integrating two streams of information — one from vision and one from echolocation — to create a single image of the world,” said Dr. Yovel, also of TAU’s Sagol School of Neuroscience. “This image has a higher definition than the one created by vision alone.”
Read more at this link.
Another recent study has found that higher air temperatures will make bat echo-location of insect prey so much less effective. This is because the carrying capacity of the air is affected by temperature and humidity. As temperatures rise, bats that make the highest frequency squeaks could be at a disadvantage, the authors in the study outlined in the link below report. This is because warmer air is more likely to attenuate sound, and therefore limit the range at which a hungry bat can pinpoint its next mouthful. So the danger is that greenhouse gas emissions will warm the atmosphere and for longer periods of time limit what scientists like to call “prey detection volume”. More on this study can be found at this link.
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