Bats have their own taxonomic group, the order Chiroptera, and are the only true flying mammals. As portrayed in horror movies, bats really do hang upside down and live in dark caves. What most people do not know, however, is that there are more than 1,200 species of bats. Like bees, they pollinate plants; like frogs, they eat insects; and above all, they are not blind! Bats can see with the aid of “sound” using sonar-like “echolocation”—a term coined by the late Dr. Donald GRIFFIN, an American zoology professor and biopsychologist whose expertise lay in animal behavior and navigation, acoustic orientation, and sensory biophysics.
Prof. Cynthia MOSS, Professor in the Departments of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Neuroscience and Mechanical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, and IAS Senior Visiting Member, is batty about bats. Her bat laboratory is equipped with high-speed cameras and voice recorders to capture the flying motions, flight paths, and most importantly the high-frequency sounds of echolocating bats. The purpose is to study the natural, sensory-guided behaviors of these animal models and how they process information about the environment using echo returns from ultrasonic emissions.