Texas is home to more species of bats than anywhere else in the world. In fact, the Science Mill sits between two record-breaking bat colonies. The largest bat colony in the world is located near San Antonio, at the Bracken Cave Preserve, and the largest urban bat colony is in downtown Austin, under the Congress Avenue Bridge.
This month, in preparation for our Bat Bazaar event on October 19, we’re gobbling up bat facts like our bat friends gobble up insects. One of our favorite facts is how bats navigate through the dark Central Texas nights, using echolocation to identify objects and food sources.
What is echolocation, exactly?
Echolocation is how certain animals use sound to see. They make sounds that echo off other objects, and depending on how the sounds bounce and return to their ears - and the direction the sound comes from - the animal can determine the location of the objects around them. Bats, dolphins, whales, shrews, and some birds all use echolocation to find food and navigate their environments.
Blind as a bat?
Bat blindness is a common myth, but Arizona State University biologists explain that bats can see.
“Using echolocation, bats can detect objects as thin as a human hair in complete darkness. Echolocation allows bats to find insects the size of mosquitoes, which many bats like to eat. Bats aren't blind, but they can use echolocation to find their way around very quickly in total darkness.”
Can people echolocate?
Some people can! There are instances of visually impaired people learning to use echolocation.
Humans have also developed a form of echolocation that helps engineers and scientists see under water. Sonar, originally an acronym for Sound Navigation and Ranging, helps scientists map the ocean floor. Sonar is also used to find objects in the ocean, like shipwrecks.
What is it like to navigate by sound?
Come to the bat bazaar to experience our Sonar Simulator Challenge, and see if you can navigate like an echolocating bat!
Join us on Saturday, October 19 from 11am-2:30pm for hands-on Bat Bazaar activities. Southern Wildlife Rehab will be on site with three different species of live bats and live presentations at 11:30am and 1:30pm. We think you’re guano love this event! Plus…
Visitors who dress up in their Halloween costumes will receive FREE Excavation Kits from our Science Store!*
Live presentations and all bat activities are included in museum admission.
*While supplies last.