Are bats blind? Blindness myth and Echolocation in bats

Are bats blind

Many people still believe that bats are blind when in fact, they are not! Quite on the contrary, their vision is well adept in various light settings and environments. They can see fine in daylight and excel at dusk and nighttime.

A bat’s perception

Bats rely on echolocation in addition to their eyes, so their perceptional skills are extraordinary. They are superior to many other species navigating in the air and even at night. This is also when it is their primary hunting and feeding time. Echolocation is an awe-inspiring skill that takes a lot of practice to perfect. It also requires excellent hearing and very evolved ears.

Image by xiSerge from Pixabay

Color vision

Some bats see colors, and others do not- this is because there are a lot of different species. And not all of them need color vision to thrive in their environment. Many bats are nocturnal creatures. That does not equal poor eyesight, though, and the blindness myth is a persistent rumor that is even manifested in our language when we describe a person as “blind as a bat.” Suggesting most bats have poor vision is very ignorant of the facts.

So why do people think that bats are blind?

Bats are mostly active at night when it is difficult for us humans to see. And since they fly around so quickly, they can appear to be random and erratic in their movements. Maybe this is the reason that makes people consider bats blind.

bat speciesImage by Mohan Nannapaneni from Pixabay

Echolocation in bats

However, there are a few things that all bats have in common regardless of their vision status. For example, all bats use echolocation to navigate the world! It plays a key role in their survival. Since they fly so fast and must avoid obstacles quickly, it is ideal for their survival. What sets them apart from other mammals is their ability to use echolocation to navigate and hunt prey at night and in the dark.

Bat Species Diversity

Bats are a diverse group of mammals, with over 1,400 different species. Some of the most common types of bats include:

Fruit Bats, also known under the name Flying Foxes, can be found in the tropical regions of Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Pacific Islands. These bats primarily feed on fruits and nectar and have large, fox-like ears and a long, pointed snout.

Vampire Bats, on the other hand, are predominantly found in South and Central America and live on the blood of other animals, such as cattle and birds.

Microbats are found all over the world and primarily feed on insects. They use echolocation to locate their prey in the dark and come in various shapes and sizes.

Big-eared bats, as their name suggests, have large ears that help them locate prey and navigate in the dark.

Brown bats, also known as little brown bats, are found in North America and feed on insects. Unfortunately, their populations have been declining due to a deadly fungal disease called white-nose syndrome.

Free-tailed bats are known for their agility and speed and can fly up to 99 mph.

Leaf-nosed bats, found in the Americas, have a distinctive, leaf-like structure on their noses that is believed to play a role in echolocation and communication.

Pallid bats, found in the western United States and Mexico, have pale fur and large ears and feed on insects and small animals.

Fishing bats, found in Central and South America, feed on fish and other aquatic animals.

Bulldog bats, also found in Central and South America, have a distinctive, bulldog-like face and catch fish using a unique hunting strategy that involves skimming the water’s surface with their lower jaw.

Among the many bat species, the way bats navigate their surroundings, their visual capabilities, and their visual acuity can differ based on their environment and food sources. Most species have good eyesight, and this is especially the case in low light conditions.

While bats play essential roles in ecosystems, habitat loss and human activities threaten many of them. Conservation efforts are necessary to protect these remarkable creatures.

bat in treeImage by R N from Pixabay

What is echolocation?

Echolocation is basically bounced-back sound waves that help the bat orient itself and figure out what is around it. To do this, bats emit high-frequency sounds that are too high for our hearing, although sometimes we perceive some clicking sounds they make. After producing these noises, they then listen for the echoes. This process gives them a sonar map of their surroundings that they can use while flying in any area, rock formations, or caves while avoiding obstacles and catching prey during the process. Researchers found that besides avoiding predators, not even a tiny insect can escape their perception.

Among the many species, fruit bats, in particular, are not prone to using echolocation but rely on their sharp vision more often than not. Their visual abilities are far superior to many other wildlife; some even detect ultraviolet light.

Most people are unaware of the unique abilities and lives of bats, but we believe they are extraordinary creatures worthy of our protection!