The science journal Royal Society Open Science
was studying several species of bat when it made a startling discovery: these furry creatures are really fast.
While observing the bats from a helicopter, researchers found that Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis
) can reach speeds of up to 100mph (160km/h)! That makes it the fastest mammal alive today. The cheetah, which was previously thought to be the fastest mammal, can run on land at around 60mph (100km/h), and only for short periods of time. The bat, on the other hand, was found to fly at high speeds continuously for over 5 hours straight. Talk about endurance!
Bats were previously thought to be much slower than birds because of their wing structure, but the Brazilian free-tailed bat is proving that this just isn't the case. Research is still being done, but most bats have been observed to have a very different flight pattern than birds. It's easy to think that they're both just flying creatures, but evolution went down different paths when giving the gift of flight to birds and bats. Typically, a bats' wing structure creates more wind resistance than a birds, in exchange for hovering efficiency. However, with certain species of bats such as the Brazilian free-tailed bat, a smaller and differently shaped wingspan allows for extremely fast and efficient flight.
“When they have a headwind, they fly faster. When they have a tailwind, they slow up. This is exactly what has been demonstrated in other flight machines, from airplanes to birds,” said the leader of the study, Prof. McCracken of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Scientists used small radio transmitters attached to the backs of the bats to measure their speed, and followed their flight paths in planes and helicopters.
"It was not easy for the pilot to follow the fast-flying animals so that we could localize them accurately and measure their flight path continuously,” said study co-author Dr. Dina Dechmann, from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology.
While we may sometimes think we've got it all figured out, this just proves that there's always something new and exciting to learn about in the wonderful world of nature.
That look? It's the need for speed.
What do you think, are mammals going to take over the highest air speed as well as the highest land speed records? Which is your favorite speedy animal? Let us know in the comments, and make sure to share this awesome info with your friends!