Blind as a bat? Might not be as blind as you think

“Contrary to popular belief, bats do indeed see, and many of them do use their eyes as much as they use echolocation,” Dr. Danilovich says.

By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
June 30, 2019 09:31
1 minute read.
Fruit Bats

Blind as a bat? Might not be as blind as you think. (photo credit: STEFAN GREIF)

Blind as a bat? New research by Tel Aviv University finds that bats might see better than we think.

According to the study, fruit bats use their eyesight to help them navigate at night.

“Contrary to popular belief, bats do indeed see, and many of them do use their eyes as much as they use echolocation,” Dr. Sasha Danilovich, who led the study with Prof. Yossi Yovel, said.

Over the last several months the scientists focused on multiple aspects of the fruit bats’ integrated vision-echolocation capabilities.

The two trained the bats in hopes of testing these skills. During one experiment, the bats were trained to land on one object in complete darkness – if they were able to do this, they would get a treat. The bats were then trained to differentiate between a smooth object and one with holes.

The experiments were first conducted in darkness and then again with the lights on.

“We found that their brains actually transformed echoes into visual images,” Dr. Danilovich said. “It was amazing to see them harness their aural experience and translate it into useful visual data.”

The researchers also found that fruit bats often use vision to find their way out of a maze and to distinguish between different shapes. Next, said Yovel, the team hopes "to harness this new echo-to-image paradigm to examine whether bats can build a 3D representation of the world based on echoes alone.”


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