1. highlycaffeinated says

    Sadly, I can’t view the videos here at work. The post itself is full of interesting information about the complexities of bat flight mechanics though. That’s two great science posts in a row; what a great Friday!

  2. Nangleator says

    As an animator, this kind of stuff is invaluable. As a pilot, envious as all pilots are of birds, it leaves me in awe.

  3. Jeanette says

    Everything’s so beautiful and amazing on here this morning! What a great way to start off everyone’s day.

  4. Tim says

    Tried, “We’re sorry, this video is no longer available.”. Bats eat things creepier than they are, so I’m glad to have them around.

  5. Nerd of Redhead, OM says

    I’ll have to wait to get home to see the video. I have seen bats up close and know they can turn very quickly. We would get an occasional bat into the chem building (students would prop the doors open so they could fly into the “cave”). It was quite hard to chase them back out again.

  6. Nangleator says

    I know bats love the tennis-ball-in-a-stocking game. Plainly, their echo location is good enough that they know it isn’t something they can eat. They chase it to the ground as a game. It’s been a while since I’ve played that game with bats, but I remember how both sides loved it.

  7. says

    Thanks for the link love, PZ. I’m puzzled by the trouble people are having with these videos. I can see them without any trouble, but maybe that’s because I’m looking at them from my own account on YouTube. Embedding 7 videos may just be asking for headaches. But can people let me know how it’s looking? It would be a shame for this amazing footage to go unseen.

  8. Sven DiMIlo says

    I just watched all of your vids without problem, Carl. The vampire galloping on the treadmill was my fave. “Front-wheel drive” is apt.

  9. Spiv says

    anyone see the spacebat?

    (NASA thing, since I feel sure there are other space-bat references out there)

  10. CosmicTeapot says


    Yes, bats do indeed turn very quickly considering the speed they are flying at. We have them every summer flying past our window. I set my digital camera on movie mode and in less than 3 minutes, I filmed a bat turning 180 degrees just outside our kitchen. The turning circle looked about 1 metre.

    I was going to try and get a frame to see what the outcome was but my wife went and deleted everything on the camera before I had a chance :(

    Still, better luck this year.

  11. chris says

    Youtube is blocked in our workplace too. They think watching videos somehow hurts productivity.

  12. says

    The flight was fairly graceful. I’m not going to overdo, since not all of the movements are truly aesthetic, with some “flopping” whose function isn’t readily apparent.

    That walking vampire bat, on the other hand, is creepy. Not the first time I’ve seen it, but still worse than a spider. I’m sure their mode of making a living (walking up to victims, biting them, then lapping up blood) has something to do with it.

    Glen D

  13. KI says

    One evening while fishing in the Boundary Waters (northern Minnesota) in the midst of a mosquito storm I had bats come along the water to my fishing line and then spiral up to my hand, nabbing tiny vampires all the way. Not just once, but repeatedly. Bats are just cool.

  14. says

    Agility? I discovered that when I tried to chase a bat out of our house. I had opened a window but it was 20F outside; the bat had no desire to fly through the window.

    Instead it squeezed its body under a closed, locked door.

    Note: I’ve expelled many a bat out of our house; a soft laundry basket makes for a good bat catcher. It doesn’t hurt the bat.

  15. Spyderkl says

    Those videos were amazing! I loved the one of the bat drinking from a flower; it was almost like watching it swim through the air, using its hands, feet and wings all together.

    Carl Zimmer #11: The videos work just fine for me, but then I’m watching from home.

  16. dNorrisM says

    I got a good close look at a bat crawling around a wire-mesh wastebasket. It was probably moving at about 4 Ft/Sec frantically trying to escape. It was the biggest bat I ever saw, with a wingspan of perhaps 8″. I had scooped it up midflight in the bedroom at 4 AM, so I was a little groggy. I wanted to put it (and the can) in the basement overnight, but the GF wouldn’t let me, so I had to relase it outside. Poor thing, it probably froze to death in minutes. This was 2 months ago, in Columbus, OH with a temp of 5F outside. I looked for white fungus on its mouth, but didn’t see any. I was VERY CAREFUL not to get pricked by any of the wires in the mesh, and I bleached the hell out of it later (the basket, that is, not the bat)

  17. ctenotrish says

    You were right, PZ, I did want to read Zimmer’s post! The video clips were amazing. And for a nice change, I had zero problems accessing them at work. On my break. Of course.

  18. John Phillips, FCD says

    Thanks PZ and Carl, the last two posts have been awesome. I’m another that’s fascinated by our flying cousins.

  19. JohnnieCanuck says

    Speaking of bats and fishing line, one of my treasured memories is of flying a kite near dusk and having an almost invisible bat repeatedly pluck at the line. It took a moment to figure out what was causing the vibration.

    Whether the bat was just curious about a new experience or confused into believing it was an insect, I couldn’t guess.

  20. George Atkinson says

    Carl, the videos on your page don’t work for me, perhaps it’s my low bandwidth. The progress bar creeps along for three or four minutes; upon completion the screen still remains blank. Grr. Links to downloadable versions would be much appreciated.

  21. JKessler says

    Hell yes bats are agile, fast too. One in Florida just went from zero to 17,500 mph in eight minutes!

  22. says

    Dear disgruntled Pharyngulistas: please come back! I’ve re-embedded the videos from Vimeo instead of YouTube, and they are, if I may say, more awesome than before. Viva Vimeo.

  23. MPG says

    Neato! I had a small colony of pipistrelle bats living in my attic last year, and it was great going outside at dusk to watch them leaving to hunt. I could even go up there in the day and see them tucked up in the rafters (I managed to get some photos of them too). They’ve moved on elsewhere now, but it’d be great if they returned this year.

  24. Blind Squirrel FCD says

    Mhe. Nice enough, but Merlin Tuttle was turning out better 20 years ago.

  25. Gallstones says

    Thank you Carl for putting this up to share, and thank you PZ for the heads up. Wonderful stuff. I always thought I would do research on bats, alas. :sigh:

  26. Gary F says

    That’s a really cool video. If you watch carefully, you can see how the bat seems to “grab” the air with the membrane attached to its index finger. That “finger” drops down slightly before the other fingers do, forming a sort of parachute shape to grab the air. This video makes a bit more sense of the effortful manner in which these mammals manage to take to the air, which contrasts with the grace of most birds and insects. Bats, our closest cousins capable of powered flight without tools, are amazing creatures.