Are Bats Really Blind?


Bats are the only flying mammal known to man. They hunt at night and are famous for their echolocation, which allows them to navigate in completely dark areas. But just because these creatures have such an amazing ability does not mean they are blind, does it?

Echolocation is an ability commonly used by these wonderful creatures to navigate at night or in pitch black caves. When doing this, bats will release sound waves from their mouth or nose. When the sound waves reach an object, they will echo back to the animal’s ears. Just by listening to these echoes, bats are able to figure out the size of an object, where it is, and the shape. Scientists will address this creature as “Chriptotera”, a Greek term which translates to “hand wing”. 

A western pipistrelle (now Parastrellus) bat. Combating the Rage

One might believe these winged mammals are completely blind without echolocation to navigate, but this is false. Bats do not depend on echolocation, and research has shown often Chriptoteras prefer using their regular eyesight. Many fruit bats never use echolocation. They have relatively sharp eyesight and can see some colors, occasionally including ultraviolet light, a color invisible to humans. Seeing UV light is especially useful for fruit bats, as it reflects off of many flowers, specifically of a purple or yellow color.

In plenty of other bat species, echolocation and vision work together. As reported by, “Scientists found that the brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus), an insectivore, preferred hunting best when it had both visual and sonar information to work with – but visual input was preferred to sonar alone.” Research has also shown using both methods is great for detecting prey in cluttered areas. It has also been proven Chriptoteras will increase their echolocation rate before landing or when in darker areas.

Truthfully, most bats have and use vision which is sharp enough for its purpose and is sometimes even used even more than their echolocation. Although these nocturnal, flying mammals have the amazing ability of echolocation, this does not mean they are blind.

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