A team of scientists from the Johns Hopkins University, University of Maryland and Columbia University has revealed for the first time the importance the touch sensors bats have on their wings.
The researchers published the findings of their new study in the journal Cell Reports.
Bats can easily switch directions while flying in a matter of milliseconds. The secret to its agility is its very keen sense of touch.
According to animal experts, bats have wings that are covered in very small hairs and these hairs are equipped with sensory receptors that are located at the base.
The scientists took a North American big brown bat and blew gently on the hairs located on the animal’s wings. As they did it, the researchers noticed that it ignited the neurons in the primary somatosensory cortex of the bat.
According to the scientists, this suggests that the animal uses these sensory stimuli to help it fly during windy weather, without losing its balance and orientation.
Dr. Cynthia Moss, a researcher at Johns University and one of the scientists involved in the study, explained that bats use wing adjustments in order to stabilize their flight, speed up and slow down.
Unlike humans, who simply walk on a surface, the bat can actually move constantly in three dimensions.
Dr. Moss said that if aircraft would be equipped with sensors that are more sophisticated, it would help them fly more agilely.
“They could be more carefully controlled if there were more feedback about the airflow in the flight.”
According to the researchers, bats are the only mammals that can hit speeds of up to 20 miles per hour and can pull of powered flight, unlike other creatures, such as the flying squirrel that can glide.
Bats can fly like birds, but unlike them, they are more dexterous and can fly more agilely.
Although this is not the first study that shows the importance of the hairs on the bats’ wings, this is the first study that highlights how important the sensors are when the animals are flying.
Dr. Moss explains that:
“As humans, we don’t think about how much touch really influences our movement. If you were to build a Lego toy, for example, you could look at it, watch your fingers—but you need to actually feel the pressure on your fingers. You rely on touch to control your movement. It’s the same with bats and flight.”
Image Source: livescience