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.
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 bat species 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 eyesight or visual capabilities is very ignorant of the facts.
So why do people think that bats are blind? It’s likely because they 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.
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.
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.
Echolocation works because bats can emit high-pitched calls and then listen for the echoes of those calls bouncing off objects in their environment. By tracking the echoes’ direction, intensity, and frequency, bats can build up a highly detailed mental picture of their surroundings, allowing them to fly at high speeds and safely navigate through tight spaces in complete darkness. Their hearing is superb, and even if their sight differs from other animals, bats aren’t blind, and they are skillful predators.
Among the bat 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 animals; 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!