Oct. 31, 2006 There really is nothing as 'blind as a bat' ... because bats are not blind.
They are, however, the world's only flying mammal with more than 1000 species. Some are as tiny as a bumblebee, weighing about as much as a dime while the largest have wing spans approaching 1.8 metres (6 feet).
These amazing critters have fascinated and repelled human mammals for thousands of years, but what we know about them is riddled with myths, misconceptions and misunderstanding.
Enter McMaster's own "Bat Man," Paul Faure, a neuroethologist in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour whose Science in City lecture will explore The Wings of Darkness: Myths and Realities of Bats.
His talk, which takes place at 7 p.m. on "Devil's Night," Oct. 30 in The Hamilton Spectator Auditorium, will debunk the myths, provide the facts and help the audience understand that bats are beneficial to humans--and that we can indeed co-exist happily with this much maligned group of organisms.
Faure has probably heard all of the misconceptions about bats and acknowledges that the most common is that bats are blind.
"The reality is that all bats do indeed see," he says. "They also possess exceptionally good hearing and very sophisticated sonar--the military still doesn't have sonar as good as how nature does it in bats," says Faure.
Faure's research as a neuroethologist focuses on two major animal groups: echolocating bats and tympanate insects.
The bats in his lab provide him with some fascinating information about the social signals that bats use--a rich social repertoire of "bat language" that reveals their sophisticated processing abilities.
Bats also have the capacity to perform complicated tasks and according to Faure, "possess incredible memories. They extract images of objects in their environment using sound and can migrate hundreds of miles and return to the exact location where they started from-- sometimes right down to the same branch on a tree."
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