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These Whispering, Walking Bats Are Onto Something | Deep Look

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 Biology   |   Environmental   |   Science
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Bats have a brilliant way to find prey in the dark: echolocation. But to many of the moths they eat, that natural sonar is as loud as a jet engine. So some bats have hit on a sneakier, scrappier way to hunt.

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Bats have been the only flying mammals for about 50 million years. Most species, with the exception of the fruit bats, use echolocation -- their built-in sonar -- to detect prey and snatch it from the air.

But not pallid bats. They hunt insects and arachnids that live on the ground by tracking their movements with another sense: hearing. In the final moments of their attack, they land and pluck their prey from the ground, a behavior called gleaning.

It took millions of years for bats to develop the lethal pairing of flight and echolocation. Why would a bat “go back” to a more primitive hunting style?

Many scientists believe the answer may have less to do with the bats alone than with moths, their principal food. In what these scientists describe as an “arms race” of evolution, many moth species have adapted to hear when they’re being tracked and to deploy counter-measures to bat echolocation.

These developments have driven some bats to seek alternate means of catching a meal – in part by keeping their sonar volume down. Pallid bats and other so-called “whispering bats” still use their echolocation to navigate. The volume navigational sonar is much quieter, more like a dishwasher.

For the pallid bat, part of occupying that niche has also meant evolving immunity scorpion venom. Another arms race.

--- Do all bats drink blood?

No, only three bat species are exclusive “hemovores” (blood-eaters), and only one of those, the common vampire bat, prefers mammals.

--- Why can’t humans hear echolocation?

Bat echolocation calls, whether for hunting or navigation – are too high-pitched for our ears to hear.

--- Do all bats carry rabies?

Only ½ to one percent of bats carry rabies. If a bat seems sick, rabies could be the cause. You should never touch any bat that you find.

---+ Read the entire article on KQED Science:

https://ww2.kqed.org/science/2017/10/10/these-whispering-walking-bats-are-onto-something

---+ For more information:

Visit the Razak Lab at UC Riverside:
http://www.faculty.ucr.edu/~khaleel/

---+ More Great Deep Look episodes:

A Real Alien Invasion Is Coming to a Palm Tree Near You
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6a3Q5DzeBM

How Mosquitoes Use Six Needles to Suck Your Blood
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rD8SmacBUcU

---+ See some great videos and documentaries from the PBS Digital Studios!

Origin Of Everything: The True Origin of Killer Clowns
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5_Li2whOHA

Physics Girl: Fire in Freefall
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAA_dNq_-8c

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---+ About KQED

KQED, an NPR and PBS affiliate in San Francisco, CA, serves Northern California and beyond with a public-supported alternative to commercial TV, Radio and web media.

Funding for Deep Look is provided in part by PBS Digital Studios and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Deep Look is a project of KQED Science, which is also supported by HopeLab, the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the Dirk and Charlene Kabcenell Foundation, the Vadasz Family Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Smart Family Foundation and the members of KQED.

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