Pharyngula

Bats in flight

I think you want to read Carl Zimmer’s post on bat flight — it has lots of lovely slo-mo videos that show just how amazingly agile bats are.

Comments

  1. #1 highlycaffeinated
    March 20, 2009

    Sadly, I can’t view the videos here at work. The post itself is full of interesting information about the complexities of bat flight mechanics though. That’s two great science posts in a row; what a great Friday!

  2. #2 Nangleator
    March 20, 2009

    As an animator, this kind of stuff is invaluable. As a pilot, envious as all pilots are of birds, it leaves me in awe.

  3. #3 Jeanette
    March 20, 2009

    Everything’s so beautiful and amazing on here this morning! What a great way to start off everyone’s day.

  4. #4 Tim
    March 20, 2009

    Tried, “We’re sorry, this video is no longer available.”. Bats eat things creepier than they are, so I’m glad to have them around.

  5. #5 Ouchimoo
    March 20, 2009

    I love bats. Especially bats in science bling.

  6. #6 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 20, 2009

    I’ll have to wait to get home to see the video. I have seen bats up close and know they can turn very quickly. We would get an occasional bat into the chem building (students would prop the doors open so they could fly into the “cave”). It was quite hard to chase them back out again.

  7. #7 Freelance
    March 20, 2009

    Suppose all those white dots are for mo-cap? Pretty cool.

  8. #8 Diane
    March 20, 2009

    I love bats. That video made my morning. Thanks PZ.

  9. #9 Vic
    March 20, 2009

    I once saw a bat chase down and eat a Scud missile. They are truly amazing animals.

  10. #10 Nangleator
    March 20, 2009

    I know bats love the tennis-ball-in-a-stocking game. Plainly, their echo location is good enough that they know it isn’t something they can eat. They chase it to the ground as a game. It’s been a while since I’ve played that game with bats, but I remember how both sides loved it.

  11. #11 Carl Zimmer
    March 20, 2009

    Thanks for the link love, PZ. I’m puzzled by the trouble people are having with these videos. I can see them without any trouble, but maybe that’s because I’m looking at them from my own account on YouTube. Embedding 7 videos may just be asking for headaches. But can people let me know how it’s looking? It would be a shame for this amazing footage to go unseen.

  12. #12 daveau
    March 20, 2009

    That “cave bat” landing is a thing of such beauty and grace.

  13. #13 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    March 20, 2009

    Bats in flight

    For fuck’s sake, why did this phrase make “Afternoon Delight” pop into my head?! *cries*

  14. #14 JB
    March 20, 2009

    Is it just me, or is the Pharyngula banner image not showing up at the top of the page?

  15. #15 Sven DiMIlo
    March 20, 2009

    I just watched all of your vids without problem, Carl. The vampire galloping on the treadmill was my fave. “Front-wheel drive” is apt.

  16. #16 Spiv
    March 20, 2009

    anyone see the spacebat?

    (NASA thing, since I feel sure there are other space-bat references out there)

  17. #17 CosmicTeapot
    March 20, 2009

    Nerd

    Yes, bats do indeed turn very quickly considering the speed they are flying at. We have them every summer flying past our window. I set my digital camera on movie mode and in less than 3 minutes, I filmed a bat turning 180 degrees just outside our kitchen. The turning circle looked about 1 metre.

    I was going to try and get a frame to see what the outcome was but my wife went and deleted everything on the camera before I had a chance :(

    Still, better luck this year.

  18. #18 chris
    March 20, 2009

    Youtube is blocked in our workplace too. They think watching videos somehow hurts productivity.

  19. #19 buddhahat
    March 20, 2009

    Them bats is smart. They use radar. – David Letterman

  20. #20 NewEnglandBob
    March 20, 2009

    Like an Olympic diver.

  21. #21 DMS
    March 20, 2009

    Amazing and much to admire, but they still kinda creep me out.

  22. #22 Glen Davidson
    March 20, 2009

    The flight was fairly graceful. I’m not going to overdo, since not all of the movements are truly aesthetic, with some “flopping” whose function isn’t readily apparent.

    That walking vampire bat, on the other hand, is creepy. Not the first time I’ve seen it, but still worse than a spider. I’m sure their mode of making a living (walking up to victims, biting them, then lapping up blood) has something to do with it.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  23. #23 KI
    March 20, 2009

    One evening while fishing in the Boundary Waters (northern Minnesota) in the midst of a mosquito storm I had bats come along the water to my fishing line and then spiral up to my hand, nabbing tiny vampires all the way. Not just once, but repeatedly. Bats are just cool.

  24. #24 ollie
    March 20, 2009

    Agility? I discovered that when I tried to chase a bat out of our house. I had opened a window but it was 20F outside; the bat had no desire to fly through the window.

    Instead it squeezed its body under a closed, locked door.

    Note: I’ve expelled many a bat out of our house; a soft laundry basket makes for a good bat catcher. It doesn’t hurt the bat.

  25. #25 Spyderkl
    March 20, 2009

    Those videos were amazing! I loved the one of the bat drinking from a flower; it was almost like watching it swim through the air, using its hands, feet and wings all together.

    Carl Zimmer #11: The videos work just fine for me, but then I’m watching from home.

  26. #26 dNorrisM
    March 20, 2009

    I got a good close look at a bat crawling around a wire-mesh wastebasket. It was probably moving at about 4 Ft/Sec frantically trying to escape. It was the biggest bat I ever saw, with a wingspan of perhaps 8″. I had scooped it up midflight in the bedroom at 4 AM, so I was a little groggy. I wanted to put it (and the can) in the basement overnight, but the GF wouldn’t let me, so I had to relase it outside. Poor thing, it probably froze to death in minutes. This was 2 months ago, in Columbus, OH with a temp of 5F outside. I looked for white fungus on its mouth, but didn’t see any. I was VERY CAREFUL not to get pricked by any of the wires in the mesh, and I bleached the hell out of it later (the basket, that is, not the bat)

  27. #27 ShadowWalkyr
    March 20, 2009

    Color me unsurprised, PZ.

    Bats are awesome!

  28. #28 ThirtyFiveUp
    March 20, 2009

    Your spring break, our spring delight.

    Thanks for many scrumptious posts this week.

    http://ical.mac.com/WebObjects/iCal.woa/wa/default?u=myers&n=PZ%20Myers.ics

  29. #29 ctenotrish
    March 20, 2009

    You were right, PZ, I did want to read Zimmer’s post! The video clips were amazing. And for a nice change, I had zero problems accessing them at work. On my break. Of course.

  30. #30 John Phillips, FCD
    March 20, 2009

    Thanks PZ and Carl, the last two posts have been awesome. I’m another that’s fascinated by our flying cousins.

  31. #31 JohnnieCanuck
    March 20, 2009

    Speaking of bats and fishing line, one of my treasured memories is of flying a kite near dusk and having an almost invisible bat repeatedly pluck at the line. It took a moment to figure out what was causing the vibration.

    Whether the bat was just curious about a new experience or confused into believing it was an insect, I couldn’t guess.

  32. #32 George Atkinson
    March 20, 2009

    Carl, the videos on your page don’t work for me, perhaps it’s my low bandwidth. The progress bar creeps along for three or four minutes; upon completion the screen still remains blank. Grr. Links to downloadable versions would be much appreciated.

  33. #33 JKessler
    March 20, 2009

    Hell yes bats are agile, fast too. One in Florida just went from zero to 17,500 mph in eight minutes!

  34. #34 Mentat
    March 20, 2009

    Spiv #16: I heard about spacebat. Gizmodo had the best eulogy: http://i.gizmodo.com/5173385/shuttle+riding-bat-dies-the-most-glorious-death-imaginable

  35. #35 Carl Zimmer
    March 20, 2009

    Dear disgruntled Pharyngulistas: please come back! I’ve re-embedded the videos from Vimeo instead of YouTube, and they are, if I may say, more awesome than before. Viva Vimeo.

  36. #36 MPG
    March 20, 2009

    Neato! I had a small colony of pipistrelle bats living in my attic last year, and it was great going outside at dusk to watch them leaving to hunt. I could even go up there in the day and see them tucked up in the rafters (I managed to get some photos of them too). They’ve moved on elsewhere now, but it’d be great if they returned this year.

  37. #37 David Utidjian
    March 20, 2009

    Carl,

    I can see the vids fine here (about 7:30 PM EST). Very impressive videos. Thanks for sharing them.

    -DU-

  38. #38 Blind Squirrel FCD
    March 20, 2009

    Mhe. Nice enough, but Merlin Tuttle was turning out better 20 years ago.

  39. #39 Gallstones
    March 20, 2009

    Thank you Carl for putting this up to share, and thank you PZ for the heads up. Wonderful stuff. I always thought I would do research on bats, alas. :sigh:

  40. #40 Gary F
    March 21, 2009

    That’s a really cool video. If you watch carefully, you can see how the bat seems to “grab” the air with the membrane attached to its index finger. That “finger” drops down slightly before the other fingers do, forming a sort of parachute shape to grab the air. This video makes a bit more sense of the effortful manner in which these mammals manage to take to the air, which contrasts with the grace of most birds and insects. Bats, our closest cousins capable of powered flight without tools, are amazing creatures.

  41. #41 strangebeasty
    March 21, 2009

    Richard Dawkins did some wonderful writing about bats in Blind Watchmaker. Sorry if someone else already mentioned this.