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Keeping Up with Bats

A new paper by Gary McCracken and colleagues will be published online in the Royal Society journal Open Science  on November 9, 2016:

RSOS-160398. Airplane tracking documents the fastest flight speeds recorded for bats. McCracken, G.F., K. Safi, T.H. Kunz, D.K.N. Dechmann, S.M. Swartz, M. Wikelski

This study reports new research demonstrating that Brazilian free-tailed bats achieve flight speeds that are faster than previously documented for any bat or bird.  Using a novel airplane tracking method, we document that moderate flight speeds, which are consistent with existing literature, are punctuated by bouts of very rapid flight.  Much current literature indicates that birds fly faster and more efficiently that bats. These unexpected flight abilities of bats will stimulate research into the interplay of phylogeny, adaptation, and physical constraints in determining the functional capabilities and structural architecture of animals.  When most people think of animals moving at high speed, they envision cheetahs or swiftly diving raptors, but probably not small and unfamiliar nocturnal flying mammals. The mystery around bats ensures public fascination, and we anticipate that this study will improve public perceptions of bats.