An new study shows that fruit bats use clicks of their own wings to navigate and fly. Bats normally use a form of sonar to help them orientate while flying.
The sonar that bats use to help them navigate is also known as echolocation. Given the reason that bats are nocturnal creatures and the fact that they cannot see they use a form of sonar and a “3D compass” in their brains to help them know the location of objects around them and to avoid crashing into those objects.
Fruit bats, unlike their more evolved brethren, have failed to evolve this 3D compass and they have to use their own form of echolocation. Studies have shown that fruit bats use the clicks of their own wings to produce sounds that help then navigate through darkness.
When scientists have studied this species, the fruit bats, they discovered that the bats have developed a sensory system that over millions of years of evolution has adapted and improved. Scientists also believe that this basic echolocation system found in fruit bats may be the first type of sonar.
Doctor Yossi Yovel of Tel Aviv University in Israel, who led the study regarding fruit bats, and his co-author Arjan Boonman selected 19 wild specimens of three different species of fruit bat for their studies. As hard as they tried to find different patterns or sources of their sonar, the only thing they found was the clicks of the bats wings.
Yossi Yovel made a statement in which he said: “ We did all we could to prove it wrong, including sealing the bats’ mouths and anesthetizing their tongues, but nothing stopped them from clicking, except for when we interfered with their wing flaps.”
Studies have revealed that bats increase the flapping of their wings as it gets darker outside. For example, when placed inside a dark tunnel, the bats increased their clicking rate by a factor of three to five or more. However, this procedure is not a true form of echolocation, thus researchers were not surprised to see that the fruit bats constantly bumped into objects such as thick cables and even larger objects when they tried to land. Even if they are not equipped with an advanced echolocation system, their wing clicks still help them navigate through the darkness.