Some bats, like flying foxes, have pretty normal-looking faces– they almost look like puppies. But others have strange and elaborate folds of skin on their noses. Why?

If you see a bat with a strange facial structure, that’s a pretty good clue that it hunts using echolocation. When flying in the dark, these bats make a high-pitched squeak, and those sound waves bounce off of their surroundings– including insects that the bats want to eat. These sound waves then make their way back to the bats, whose strange faces act like radar dishes to catch the waves. (That’s also the reason why some bats have such big ears– the extra surface area helps them pick up sound waves.) They’re then able to triangulate and figure out where the bugs are. Bats eat lots of bugs that are harmful to people, including disease-causing mosquitoes. So the next time you see a bat with a strange face, don’t be scared– those strange-looking noses are important!

 

Photo by Aditya Joshi

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