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A Moment of Science

Super Bats 

With their echolocating abilities and fast sensory-motor reactions, bats are amazingly quick on the uptake.


Superman vs. Batman

Superman might be faster than a speeding bullet, but bats have fast brains.

Bats use echolocation when they hunt. They emit ultrasonic calls which hit potential prey, sending an echo back to the bat. The bat processes that echo information in its brain to locate where the prey is and capture it.

That process is superfast. Scientists thought bats might use some sort of autopilot when capturing prey, especially when they were in the last seconds of capture. But a group of Swedish scientists working with lab and wild bats has shown that bats are making decisions down to the final moments. They recorded the bats on film and discovered a bat can adjust its attack until it has about 100 milliseconds to reach its prey.

Reaction or Reflex?

The fastest baseball pitches take 400 milliseconds to reach the strike zone? And the human brain takes 200 milliseconds to recognize face emotions.

Their responses aren’t just reflex reactions: Simple reflex reactions don’t require the brain to process information. These bats adjusted their attacks and even stopped an attack when prey was removed. That’s more than a reflex.

I suppose their quick brains are the result of evolutionary pressure. The faster thinkers were better hunters and survived to produce more offspring.

Read More:

“Fast Sensory Motor Reactions in Echolocating Bats to Sudden Changes During the Final Buzz and Prey Intercept” (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)

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