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Aerodynamic Bat Ears

May 12, 2016

One bat species’ big ears may generate lift during flight.

Transcript

BAT1

A brown long-eared bat in flight. (Anders Hedenström/Lund University)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Aerodynamic ears. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Except in the Disney film Dumbo, big ears have never been considered useful for flight. But now, Lund University researcher Christoffer Johansson and his colleagues report in the journal Scientific Reports that brown long-eared bats get a lift from their large, protruding ears: Johansson says as the bats move through the air, the ears direct airflow downward.

CHRISTOFFER JOHANSSON (Lund University, Sweden):

Providing lift forces that keep them aloft when flying.

HIRSHON:

He and his colleagues also discovered that the bats use their wing tips in a complex way when flying slowly: they creating tiny swirls of air on the up-stroke that help them tip their bodies up and down, and pivot side-to-side— a trick Johannson says could be useful to aeronautical engineers.

JOHANNSON:

And we think this might be an important contribution to control mechanisms in drones in the future.

HIRSHON:

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

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