Bat wings have enabled bats to be the only mammal that can truly fly. And their amazing design mean they do it with superb style!
Unlike birds, bats don't have feathers. Instead they've got a membrane of skin that extends from their bodies and legs and stretches across their long, thin fingers.
This is called a patagium and its flexibility and ability to change shape in response to a bat moving its fingers and thumb is one reason why bats are so agile.
This ability is so impressive that it inspired a university professor, Dr Richard Dryden, to design a boat sail that can change shape in response to environmental conditions.
Birds can't generate the sharp twists and turns that bats do so well at speed. This is because their feathers produce a drifting effect. As they turn, the air moving over their feathers causes a delay. However, they're much better at taking off from the ground.
Apart from a few species like the 3 types of
, most bats find it very difficult to do this. They need to free fall for a short distance to gain enough momentum before flight can happen.
The wings of bats have evolved to compliment the hunting methods and lifestyles of different species.
Long, thin wings are good for fast flight. The Mexican free-tailed bat is a perfect example of this. They can achieve speeds of up to 100 kph (60 mph), which is great for catching their fast moving insect prey.
Broader, shorter wings are better for slower flight and hovering. Just what nectar eating bats need because they need to hover over flowers as they feed on their nectar.
Return from Bat Wings to The Surprising World of Bats