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Bats & Windmills

September 17, 2008

Wind turbines can mean death for bats.


An animal murder mystery…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Bats are often a casualty of the spinning turbines used to generate energy from the wind. But strangely, the bats don’t seem to die from actually hitting the blades. Erin Baerwald is a doctoral student in ecology at the University of Calgary. She and her colleagues performed autopsies of bats found at a local wind farm.

ERIN BAERWALD (University of Calgary):
Even though they had no external injuries, internally there was very severe hemorrhaging in the thoracic or chest cavity and in the abdominal cavity as well.

She says the fatal bleeding occurs because of a severe pressure drop near the spinning blades. That drop in pressure bursts the bats’ blood vessels and fills their lungs with fluid. The findings suggest that adjusting the speed of the blades and turning them off during the bats’ migratory periods would help keep them safe. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.