Adorable Bats Track Weather for Migration

first_img Watch: Dolphin Leaps Feet Away From Unsuspecting SurferNASA Says 2 Asteroids Will Safely Fly By Earth This Weekend Bats can be creepy, sometimes they’re cute, but now, it seems, migrating bats might basically be fluffy, flying weather radars. A new paper suggests that they can detect things like wind speed and air pressure, and they use that information to select when the best time to make their trek would be.The study, published in Biology Letters, asserts that bats have several systems that allow them to track changes in the seasons and weather. This is similar, in many respects, to the mechanisms birds use to figure out when they need to migrate, for example.To be clear, though, most bats don’t migrate. Only a handful of species travel more than a few dozen miles from home. But some set out for massive journeys in the spring to find better insect-hunting grounds in the summer.Studying these patterns, researchers captured the common noctules, one species of migratory bat, in 2012, 2013, and 2016. They took basic data like weight and measurements, then attached radio transmitters to each of them to see if they went anywhere, and, if so, where. Then, that information was combined with weather data to check for patterns.While science for science’s sake is definitely a thing, the main focus of the research was to understand how females bats make decisions on where and when to migrate. Since females are typically pregnant during the spring migration, they need everything to go well, or they could die. The extra weight of their offspring, plus the additional weight they need to pack on as energy reserves makes flight taxing, but having favorable conditions like a tailwind, can really help ease the long flight.“Early on in the migration season, having really strong tailwinds is important,” Teague O’Mara, a researcher at the Max Planck School of Ornithology and one of the authors of the paper, said in a statement. “Later on, it is important to have nights with high pressure and clear nights regardless of the wind conditions. They only migrate on nights with low pressure and bad weather if there are favorable tailwinds and weak headwinds.”This is also particularly interesting because it represents a relatively complex decision. Weighing weather wind conditions and the like against the time of year and knowledge of when the bats need to make it to the next feeding ground is tough. Even more so when you’re trying to decide whether to brave a storm because of strong tailwinds.“Future work should target the social or physiological sources of the variation in this flexibility to resolve the many iterations in migratory strategies found in birds and bats,” the researchers wrote. In time, this may allow power plant operators to shut down wind turbines when bats have a known migration. This could help save many bat-lives in time, as the wind turbines claim thousands of bats each year.Plus, it’s just cool to see more evidence of nature finding ways to perform complex tasks — like analyzing the weather and making risk assessments based on that data — for the purposes of migration. This isn’t something humans figured out with technology until last century, really. Which… is really amazing, if you think about it.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Stay on targetlast_img

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