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Bats Obey Innate ‘Traffic Rules’ to Avoid Collisions While Foraging, Study Reveals

posted: 03/27/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
Bat eating a worm
Jeff Foott/DCI

A new study from the University of Bristol reveals that bats obey an intrinsic set of 'traffic rules' while foraging at night with limited vision. Using high-pitched biosonar calls, airborne bats are able to coordinate airborne chases, turns and decelerations that helped the creatures avoid collisions.

"Collective movements of flocking birds or shoaling fish are amongst the most fascinating natural phenomena, and everyone has experienced the challenges of walking through a moving crowd. What information individuals use for movement coordination is, however, very difficult to know - except in the case of echolocating bats," remarked Dr. Marc Holderied, one of the study's coauthors.

Researchers found that bats in the study frequently flew in an alternating leader-follower formation in which the trailing bat imitated the leader's movements on a 500-millisecond delay. The tandem formation servers as the basis for the bats' social interactions during foraging missions.

Click here for the full news release from the University of Bristol

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