The Loh Down On Science

How some bats use leaves to hear better!

Hearing aids for . . . bats?!  What?!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science 

Saying, You heard right!

Introducing the disc-winged bats of Central and South America.  They rest and hide only inside certain tropical plants with funnel-like leaves.  But why?  Hint: keep listening.

Enter Gloriana Chaverri from the University of Costa Rica.  She collected the preferred leaves from a local forest.  Brought them to the lab.  Put bat-sized microphones inside.  She put other mics outside of leaves. Then she played recordings of the bats’ calls from a few feet away.  And?

The vocalizations were ten times louder within the leaves!  Mystery solved!  The trumpet-shaped hideouts harness and amplify the calls of bats.  As sound waves get funneled into an increasingly narrow space, the sound intensifies.  For the bats, this facilitates long-distance communication.  Chaverri calculates that the phenomenon could add an extra hundred feet to the detectable range of any given conversation.  It also works in reverse, amplifying vocalizations made from within, further extending coverage.

Best part?  The critters get unlimited free calls!  Roaming charges drive them batty.  Sorry.

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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