How some bats take flight: these use their hind legs or wings as wings

Bat take-off has recently become pertinent with regard to pterosaur take-off. Expanding on earlier studies, recent high-speed X-rays of bats taking flight from a horizontal surface reveal that either:

1. the hind limbs provide the initial thrust skyward, followed by huge wing flaps, or

2. the wing flaps alone provide the initial thrust skyward.

3. The third type of launch, is that of the vampire bat using forelimbs as pogo sticks, which has been receiving all the attention lately with regard to pterosaur take-off.

Dr. Konow, the author of the study also measured the change in the length of the bats’ muscles and tendons, which revealed their stretchy, energy-storing properties.

“Most small mammals have stiff, thick tendons so they cannot stretch or store energy in them like we do in our Achilles tendon when we run or walk,” he explained. “But this 20g fruit bat stores energy as it stretches its bicep and tricep tendons during take‐off and climbing flight.” Releasing this “elastic energy” – just like a stretched rubber band snapping back – gives the animal an extra power boost.

The study was presented here at the Society for Experimental Biology and has not yet been formally published. Videos are available here.

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