When Sonar Doesn’t Cut It, These Bats Crawl to Hunt Prey

Connor Long, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Connor Long, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0 / Connor Long, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Even if humans can’t hear it, bats make a lot of noise. Their high-pitched sonar screeches are what allow them to locate prey like bugs in the middle of the night. Echolocation is one of the species's coolest superpowers, but it's not the only trick bats have in their arsenal. According to this episode of the PBS series Deep Look, this bat prefers to whisper, crawl, and listen carefully to hunt its prey.

The pallid bat is native to North America, where some moths have developed defense mechanisms like vibrating tails that scramble sonar signals. Many moths don’t need fancy adaptations to avoid the predators: They can hear their loud calls from far away and escape before becoming dinner.

Faced with these issues, the pallid bat evolved a few unusual alternatives to sonar. Instead of screaming, it “whispers” its signals softly to navigate the night skies without scaring off prey. The bat also uses its super-sized ears to detect movement in the dirt and crawls on all fours to stalk critters like scorpions. So if you see a bat on the ground, don’t be alarmed: It’s likely just getting creative to find its next meal.

[h/t Deep Look]