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Bat Wing Hairs Key To Flight

According to a new study published in the journal Cell Reports, bat wing hairs may hold the key to a bat’s ability to fly and maneuver. Specifically, the research revealed that bats utilize the tiny hairs on their wings in order to guide them through their complicated flights.

bat wing hairs

Big Brown Bat/Image: YvesAdamsCatersNews

The study focused on big brown bats which are a common species in the US. Bats are reported to be very agile flyers. They are able to carry out precise maneuvers. As it turns out, it’s all because of tiny bat wing hairs.

The investigative team learned that a large number of “touch sensors” are spread over each bat wing. Many are actually at the base of the fine bat wing hairs. When air movements stimulate the sensors, signals go off in the primary somatosensory cortex of the flying mammal’s brain.

This means that the sensors on each bat wing perform as data relay centers. They continuously update the bat on present air conditions. Additionally, when scientists used a cream to take off bat wing hairs, the bats were unable to stop their flight as fast as usual and their turns became significantly wider.

The bat wing hairs were proven to detect the slightest alterations in airflow that occur over the wings. When this happens, nerve signals were created by the air’s movement over the bat wing hairs. The signals were then sent to the bat’s brain.

Essentially, the data from the signals provides the flying mammal with the opportunity to make split second decisions regarding altitude and flight path. But the research reveals more than the bat wing hair sensors serve as more than the equivalent of “airplane parts.”  The bats also use their wings to cradle their babies, climb across some surfaces and capture insects.  The study’s findings also in a broader sense allow insight into how various organisms utilize touch in order to guide movement.

Bat Wing Hairs Key To Flight

About Will Phoenix

W. Scott Phoenix, B.A., B.S. was born in Hawaii, raised in Pennsylvania and resides in California. He has been a published writer since 1978. His work has appeared (under various names) in numerous places in print and online including Examiner.com. He is a single parent of three children and has also worked as an actor, singer and teacher. He has been employed by such publications as the Daily Collegian and the Los Angeles Times.