Bats: They’re not like us, in the sense that they can fly without propellers and they see with sound. Not too shabby. But in a way, they are a lot like us. They’re mammals, through and through, and we humans should be damn impressed by what they’ve done.
It’s hard to overstate just how difficult powered flight is. Sure, other mammals are “flying” about, like the liberally-skinned colugo, but they’re just gliders. Bats have not only mastered powered flight—the takeoff, the stamina of long trips, the maneuvering, the landing—but have accomplished a dexterity that puts a whole lot of birds to shame.
Just how they can bank and accelerate and brake so deftly was largely a mystery until recently. It was only in April that scientists announced the answer: A bat’s wings are covered in tiny sensory hairs. These detect air currents, sending signals to the brain so a bat can juke with uncommon skill. In a way, it’s feeling its way through the air.
Also, I’d like to make something clear. Bats are not evil bitey things hell-bent on giving you rabies. Sure, bat to human transmission can and does happen, but bites are rare. Between 1997 and 2006 in the US, for example, only 17 cases of rabies in humans were associated with bats. Compare that to cows, which kill an average of 20 people a year.
So let us not malign the bats, those trusty pollinators (thanks to those that feed on nectar) and bug-killers. Take a look at the video above for more fun facts about these remarkable critters. Oh, and to see the crew humiliate me. That too.
And I’m happy to hear from you with suggestions on what to cover next. If it’s weird and we can find footage of it, it’s fair game. You can get me at [email protected] or on Twitter at @mrMattSimon. And check out the Absurd Creature of the Week column right here.