MadSci Network: Zoology

Re: Why do bats hang upside down?

Date: Fri Jun 11 00:22:52 1999
Posted By: Richard Kingsley, Grad student, Bachelor of Education (Science), OISE - University of Toronto
Area of science: Zoology
ID: 926581724.Zo

Hi Karla,

Imagine a man or a woman pulling themselves up a cliff. The muscles and tendons in their hands are strong enough to do this activity, but if a climber loses their concentration, the muscles will relax and they will lose their grip. Then they fall off!

Now bats have a distinctive system of tendons in their legs and when they hang upside down, the tendons pulls the claws together, which gives the bat grip. The heavier the bat is, the harder the tendons will pull on the claws, and the better the grip will be. So by hanging upside down, a bat can hold onto a branch, the side of a wall, or the ceiling of a cave without having to remember to grip. Therefore it can safely go to sleep like this (just like an umbrella hanging from a peg).

This is just one of many fascinating things to learn about bats.

Richard Kingsley

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