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Lesser horseshoe bat

Lesser horseshoe bat

Bats use ultrasound to navigate and hunt for prey.



bat, horseshoe bat, mammal, ultrasound, hibernation, echolocation, homology, Doppler, cave-dweller, cave, orientation, wave, sound, wavelength, frequency, nocturnal, predator, animal, vertebrates, biology

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Lesser horseshoe bat


  • ultrasound
  • reflected ultrasound


  • approaching prey
  • hovering prey
  • departing prey
  • higher pitched reflected sound
  • unchanged reflected sound
  • deeper pitched reflected sound



  • body length: 3.5-4.5 cm
  • wingspan: 20-25 cm
  • wing
  • large ears

Homology of wings and arms

  • human arm
  • bat forelimb
  • humerus
  • bones of the lower arm
  • carpals
  • metacarpals
  • finger bones


Bats are mammals that can fly thanks to a web of skin that extends between their forelimbs, hindlimbs and tail. The human arm and the forelimb on bats have a common evolutionary origin, but they play different roles, in other words, they are homologous structures.

The common evolutionary origin can also be observed in the bone structure. Both types of limbs consist of a humerus, similar bones in the lower arm, carpals, metacarpals and finger bones. During evolution, the metacarpals and finger bones in bats elongated, their role is to support the flap of skin.

Active at night, bats hunt for insects and catch their prey with ultrasound waves. They use echoes to determine the exact location of prey. Ranging is done by measuring the time delay between the animal's own sound emission and any echoes. Bats are also capable of sensing the direction of movement; they do so by using the Doppler effect. This effect can be experienced when a car passes by us at high speed. As the car approaches, its sound is higher in pitch; when the car recedes the pitch is reduced.

Consequently, the sound of an approaching object is higher in pitch, and its frequency is higher than that of a receding object. For this reason, when the prey approaches the bat, its echo is higher. If the prey moves away from the bat, the echo is deeper than the emitted sound.

Bats can also detect and locate obstacles with great precision by using ultrasonic orientation. This is why it is fairly unlikely that a bat flying in a stairway would cross our path, if we stay calm and don't start jumping around.

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