Mysterious creatures that thrive in the dark, bats have long been associated with witchcraft, vampires, and black magic. But according to Dr. Yossi Yovel of Tel Aviv University's Department of Zoology at Tel Aviv University, we have much to learn from these highly intelligent winged mammals. Now he is developing the world's first bat colony born and raised in captivity to unlock the secrets of behavior and cognition, including social hierarchy and structure, communication abilities, and memory.
The bats, which will be born in captivity but free to forage outside, are outfitted with high-tech sensors including GPS and ultra-sonic microphones to track their activities and interactions. In addition, Dr. Yovel's new state-of-the-art "flightrooms," acoustic rooms within the lab, are specially equipped to better analyze bat sonar.
This research, which has appeared in a number of journals including Science and PLoS Biology, is already unlocking secrets of the ways that the brain processes time and sound. It could also inspire future developments in robotics, sensors, and sonar technology, among other applications.
Taking neuroscience to the field
Along with high cognitive skills, bats have a sixth sense called echolocation. They and other biosonar animals such as dolphins send ultrasonic "pings" into the environment to identify the type and location of objects by the "shape" of the returning sound. Though man-made sonar and radar technology is inspired by nature, the bat-brain's ability to measure time within hundreds of nanoseconds and distances within less than a millimetre remains a riddle.
Until now, says Dr. Yovel, scientists were ill equipped to learn more about the behavior and functioning of bats. No sensors were light or small enough to attach to the animals, which often weigh only 30 grams or less. But with new sensors weighing less than five grams and novel GPS systems, bats can be observe
|Contact: George Hunka|
American Friends of Tel Aviv University