How Do Swarming Bats Avoid Crashing Into Each Other?
The mammals obey “traffic rules,” using their built-in sonar to track each others’ positions in the air, a new study says.
Under the cover of darkness, swarms of fast-flying bats take to the skies in their nightly quest to find food. But how the mammals manage to maneuver without crashing into each other has been up in the air—until now. (See "6 Bat Myths Busted: Are They Really Blind?")
A new study finds that the nocturnal creatures follow a few simple "traffic rules" to avoid midair collisions: The bats first home in on the positions of other bats using their built-in sonar, then follow the flight path of a leader bat—or wingman, as it were.
In new experiments conducted in the United Kingdom, scientists observed the flight patterns of wild Daubenton's bats (Myotis daubentonii), an insectivore that weighs about as much