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Thirsty Bats

March 31, 2016

How do bats find water in the dark?

Transcript

barbastelle bat copyright Jens Rydell crop

A barbastelle bat takes a drink on the wing. (Copyright Jens Rydell)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Bat drinking songs. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Bats use echolocation calls to hunt for prey in the dark, but finding water is just as important according to University of Naples Federico II ecologist Danilo Russo. He writes in Ethology that no one knew how they do it, until now.

DANILO RUSSO (University of Naples Federico II):

All bats drink on the wing, and when they approach the water surface they broadcast a buzz. The recording is slowed down 10 times because those are ultrasounds.

(Drinking buzz)

RUSSO:

You can hear a splashing sound which corresponds to touching down on water.

HIRSHON:

Russo says drinking calls differ from feeding calls in that they’re slower and lack a terminal drop in pitch, features that help the bats track fast-moving prey at close range, but are unnecessary when locating still water. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.