Friday, 20 June 2014

Stranger Than Fiction: Bats

Last week I went to Bird Kingdom at Niagara Falls and one of their exhibits dealt with nocturnal animals.  I happened to be there when the bats were fed, and it was absolutely incredible watching them.  I've seen bats before, of course, on TV and in real life, but I've never really examined how they moved.

Some of them dive bombed the food dish - grabbing food as they passed or landing in the dish to feed. Others hung from a branch above and reached down to grab some food, using their feet and/or their thumbs as anchors.

Still others landed below the dish and climbed up a branch, using their thumb like a hook to pull them up to the food dish or hung from the dish's platform itself, using their thumbs to hold on while using a foot to bring the food to their mouths.

More than anything, watching them fly and climb made me think of dragons.  I suspect there's a reason dragons tend to be portrayed with leathery bat wings.  The movements of the bats shoulders as they climbed really had the look I remember from CGI dragons in films.

I never realized how articulate their thumbs (the bit sticking out the top of the wing) were.  In fact, I've never given consideration to the fact that their wings are - quite literally - their hands (there's the thumb up top and the four wing bones are labeled as fingers).  It's amazing watching them move.

If you ever get the chance to watch bats in person - doing more than hang around or fly too fast to see - I highly recommend it.

Here's a short video I took.  I apologize for the poor quality.  The cage was dark so I had to lighten the video quite a lot for the bats to stand out.  The song playing is "The Goya Discovery" by Derek R. Audette.

Bats from Jessica Strider on Vimeo.

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