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Review
, 218 (Pt 5), 653-63

Bat Flight: Aerodynamics, Kinematics and Flight Morphology

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Review

Bat Flight: Aerodynamics, Kinematics and Flight Morphology

Anders Hedenström et al. J Exp Biol.

Abstract

Bats evolved the ability of powered flight more than 50 million years ago. The modern bat is an efficient flyer and recent research on bat flight has revealed many intriguing facts. By using particle image velocimetry to visualize wake vortices, both the magnitude and time-history of aerodynamic forces can be estimated. At most speeds the downstroke generates both lift and thrust, whereas the function of the upstroke changes with forward flight speed. At hovering and slow speed bats use a leading edge vortex to enhance the lift beyond that allowed by steady aerodynamics and an inverted wing during the upstroke to further aid weight support. The bat wing and its skeleton exhibit many features and control mechanisms that are presumed to improve flight performance. Whereas bats appear aerodynamically less efficient than birds when it comes to cruising flight, they have the edge over birds when it comes to manoeuvring. There is a direct relationship between kinematics and the aerodynamic performance, but there is still a lack of knowledge about how (and if) the bat controls the movements and shape (planform and camber) of the wing. Considering the relatively few bat species whose aerodynamic tracks have been characterized, there is scope for new discoveries and a need to study species representing more extreme positions in the bat morphospace.

Keywords: Adaptation; Aerodynamics; Bat flight; Energetics; Flight morphology; Kinematics.

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