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About flying and bats...

Interestingly, the earliest knowledge of bats' sonar--please, not radar, but sonar--was based on crude instruments which included moth ears as the receivers because our technology wasn't sharp enough to hear the ultrasounds of bats. Bat sonar is so good that it can detect individual hairs, and bats can fly through a maze of fine wires using their sonar. Bats do have perfectly good eyes, but not all of them use their eyes very much. Some bats have quite large eyes, see very well, and in fact navigate by eyesight rather than by sonar. All the megabats, the Pteropids, which are only in the Old World, use visual navigation. So if you toss up a flying fox, not a fox but a megabat, in a dark room, it will just plop back onto the floor. It won't try to fly because without sonar it would crash immediately into a wall. But if you toss a microbat into the air in a dark room, it will circle, using its sonar to search for a way out.

There is a controversy on the phylogeny of bats--did they evolve once or twice? I got a step ahead there. The Order Chiroptera is divided into two suborders: the Megachiroptera (megabats), which includes the flying foxes, and the Microchiroptera (microbats), which includes all the rest of the bats. These also are misnomers because some microbats are large and many of the megabats are quite small, so size is not a good way to distinguish the two suborders.


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