Bats obey traffic rules

These flying mammals have their own system for avoiding mid-air collisions

Bat movement and communication is based on high-frequency sound. They emit extremely high-pitched sounds and then build up a mental picture of the environment from the resulting echo. Scientists can intercept and interpret these sounds and have figured out how bats stop themselves bumping into one another in the dark.

When a bat comes into earshot of another, it immediately adopts the same path as the bat it is approaching. Within four to five wing beats the bat changes direction completely and flies along with the other bat. The pair then alternate between leading and following and begin to hunt as a team.

The entire process of interpreting the sound of another bat and copying its flying direction takes only half a second.

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