Sensitive sensors in bats’ wings helped them develop echolocation mechanism


When you hear a person refereed to as blind as bat, you can beat that he has a very poor eyesight. It’s good that bat’s have sensitive sensory perceptions which help them navigate around at high very high speed without hurting themselves.

Bats are masters at flying at night, they use sound or echolocation to find the best route. The wings are responsible for this extraordinary capabilities. It’s endowed with super sensitive touch sensors which send signals ahead  and using the echoes to avoid whatever might be blocking their way ahead.

The report

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University together with Columbia University and the University of Maryland, showed how sensory receptors in bat wings send information about airflow to neurons in the brain, enabling bat to make split-second flight control adjustments.

Cynthia F Moss, Johns Hopkins neuroscientist said, “Until now no one had investigated the sensors on the bat’s wing, which allow it to serve as more than a propeller, a flipper, an airplane wing or any simple airfoil.”

“These findings can inform more broadly how organisms use touch to guide movement.”

In order to determine how the sense of touch plays a vital role in powered flight, the team studied the big brown bat that is found throughout North America.

Bats are the only mammals capable of true powered flight, can reach speeds of 7 to 20 mph with the sort of aerial maneuverability.

The team found that the evolutionary process that allowed bats to form wings resulted in unusual tactile circuitry that enhances control during flight and also allows bats to use their wings cradle their young, to climb and capture insects.

Researchers found an array ofCynthia F Moss in bat wings – a significant number of which are clustered at the base of tiny hairs that cover the appendages.

The researchers were amazed to discover that neurons in the wing skin connected not only to the higher parts of the spinal cord where forelimbs typically connect, but also to lower parts of the spinal cord that would normally only innervate an animal’s trunk.

The team also found that the innervation of bat wings – the distribution in and supply of nerves to the wings – is unlike that of other mammalian forelimbs, a clue into how wings grew in bats during evolution.

Touch-sensitive receptors give the creatures information on changes in wind direction while the follicles detect turbulence.  The bats have specialist neurons in their brains to receive the in-flight data and trigger instant adjustments.

This study was circulated in the journal Cell Reports.





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