According to Swartz,”There are bats that eat nothing but fruit, for example, and there are bats that eat nothing but insects. From the perspective of flight, these two kinds of foods couldn’t be more different.” “It’s really a fundamentally different task to fly after a large, heavy, stationary piece of fruit than to fly after a tiny, highly mobile, evasive insect prey. For us as flight biologists, we’re really interested in understanding how those two different kinds of bats might be designed differently.”
Swartz and Breuer observe the flight patterns in a special facitlity that includes a wind tunnel. Here, the two scientists take high-speed video of bats and the velocity fields behind the bats using a technique called PIV(particle image velocimetry). By synchronizing these two things, Swartz and Breuer can meausre how the wings move and the pattern the wings generate. Then, the two can see how bats “generate their lift forces, their thrust forces; what they do in order to maneuver and to fly.”
Their wings are shaped like a human hand. A bat’s wing has a thumb, second, third, fourth and fifth finger, covered with skin. This, combined with their bendable joints, allows bats to change the shape of their wings during flight. No other flying animal can do this. It is this dexterity in flight that Swartz and Breuer would like to translate into aircraft design.
Swartz and Breuer are not the only ones with bats on their mind. Carole Gerber, author, and Christina Wald, illustrator, released their new spring title, Little Red Bat. Red Bats can stay or migrate to warmer regions for the winter. Gerber’s story follows a red bat as it decides whether to stay in the forest or migrate to warmer weather. Gerber, with the help of Wald’s illustrations, introduce children to a variety of forest animals and winter behavior patterns. Read the full article about this bat study and Little Red Bat to learn more about these creatures of flight!
Visit Christina Wald’s Blog to read an interview with Carole Gerber about her background, writing process and experience with Little Red Bat.