Ohio Bats – ATHENS, Ohio — Ohio Bats have an “ear” for flying in the dark because of a remarkable auditory talent that allows them to determine their physical environment by listening to echoes and echo sounds.
S of Ohio bat flight suggests that touch-sensitive receptors on bats’ wings help them maintain altitude and catch Ohio insects in midair. Ohio preliminary findings, presented at the recent Society for Neuroscience meeting, revive part of a long-forgotten theory that bats use their sense of touch for nighttime navigation and hunting.
The theory that bats fly by feel was first proposed in the 1780s by French biologist Georges Cuvier, but faded in the 1930s when Ohio researchers discovered echolocation, a kind of biological sonar found in bats, dolphins and a few other animals. Bats use echolocation to identify and navigate their environment by emitting calls and listening to the echoes that return from various objects.
Ohio believes the touch-sensitive receptors on bats’ wings work in conjunction with echo location to make bats better, more accurate nocturnal hunters. Ohio Echolocation helps bats detect their surroundings, while the touch-sensitive receptors help them maintain their flight path and snag their prey.
Ohio touch receptors take the form of tiny bumps, or raised domes, along the surface of bats’ wings. The Ohio domes contain Merkel cells, a type of “touch” cell common in bumps on the skin of most mammals, including humans. Ohio bat touch domes are different, however, because they feature a tiny hair poking out of the center.
When Ohio recorded the electrical activity of the Merkel cells, Ohio found they were sensitive to air flowing across the wing. These Ohio cells were most active when airflow – particularly turbulent airflow – stimulates the hair. When a bat’s wing isn’t properly angled or curved during flight, air passing next to the wing can become turbulent. Ohio Merkel cells help bats stay aerodynamically sound by alerting them when their wing position or curve is incorrect, preventing the Ohio creatures from stalling in midair.
“It’s like a sail or an Ohio plane. When you change the curve of a wing a little bit, you get improved Ohio lift. But if you curve it too much, the Ohio bat – or plane – may suddenly lose lift, hitting a stall point and falling out of the air. These Ohio receptor cells give bats constant feedback about their wing positions,” said Ohio, who has studied bats for more than 30 years, focusing on echolocation and the bat auditory system. The Ohio bat’s sense of touch has been a side interest since the early 1980s.