How Can Bats Land Upside Down? Scientists Reveal

Posted: Nov 17 2015, 8:52am CST | by , Updated: Nov 17 2015, 8:34pm CST, in News | Latest Science News


How Bats Can Land Upside Down? Scientists Reveal
Photo Credit: Getty Images

The unique landing of bats has a lot to do with their heavy wings.

Bats have a remarkable ability of landing upside down, like a professional acrobat. Scientists say that the enormous wings of bats may have something to do with it. Bats have large, heavy wings compared to other insects and birds, which enable them to land in an unusual way.

“Bats land in a unique way,” said Sharon Swartz, co-author and a biologist at Brown University. “They have to go from flying with their heads forward to executing an acrobatic maneuver that puts them head down and feet up. No other flying animal lands the same way as bats do.” 

But how exactly do they perform this spectacular stunt? To find out the mechanism, researchers use a special enclosure, high speed cameras and computer models. They released two trained bats and allowed them to fly into the enclosure and land on a small piece of mesh attached to the ceiling. Cameras captured the whole maneuver from flying to landing on mesh and it took just a fraction of second to complete that. 

Video showed that bats use their heavy wings to their benefit. The mass of their wings help them generate the force needed to execute the maneuver. 

While flying bats pull their one wing close to their body and fully extend the other one. By flapping its wings in this manner, bats shift their body weight and put them in a position where they can land feet up.

To confirm the discovery, researchers replayed the movements of bats and reached the conclusion that bats rely on inertial force (change in state of motion, speed and direction) rather than aerodynamic force generated by pushing against the air.

“What this tell us is that in bats, with their heavy wings, it's the inertial forces that are more important relative to aerodynamics, said co-author Kenny Breuer from Brown's School of Engineering.

“That's a bit of a counterintuitive conclusion. Normally you'd think that an animal would not want to have such massive wings, but here, it turns out that the mass can be used to some benefit.”

These new insights into bat’s landing can also help develop human-made flying machines like flying drones but executing them accurately will definitely be a big challenge. 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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