Holy bat wings!By Susan Aiello • Published: January 1st, 2012
Category: Animal Airwaves
Batman glides silently through Gotham City on his cape. Real bats use flexible membranes spread between their hands and arms.
But not all bats maneuver the same way. There are a thousand different species. Some fly like butterflies, while others fly more like helicopters.
Researchers have learned that the control of this aerial diversity is driven by rows of tiny hairs found along the wings. Airflow against these sensory hairs tells the bat how to fly to optimize hunting within a particular habitat. But if that hair is removed with depilatory cream, these winged mammals have more difficulty gauging speed and controlling turns.
These findings have implications not just for bats but also for the control of tiny, aerial drones that are used for surveillance.