Research

Flying on Flexible Wings

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Bats are incredible and rather unique among today’s fliers. Like birds, they flap to produce their lift and thrust, but where birds have relatively stiff wings, a bat’s wings are flexible. The thin webbing of skin stretched between the bat’s finger joints has muscles inside it that fire as the mammal flaps. This means that the bat may actively control just how stiff its wing is as it flies.

Compared to other natural and manmade fliers, the bat is incredibly agile and stable, able to recover from wind gusts in less than a full wingbeat cycle. They also have some incredible acrobatic capabilities. When preparing to perch, a bat loses almost all of its aerodynamic lift but still manages to maneuver itself so it flips over and grabs hold. Check out the full video above to learn more about these fascinating animals. (Video and image credit: Science Friday; research credit: S. Swartz and K. Breuer)

Editor’s Note: I’ll be travelling through the end of the month with limited email access. The blog should continue posting uninterrupted, but if you contact me, just know it may be awhile before I can get back to you. Thanks! – Nicole

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