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Research Sheds Light On Bats Navigation System

Update Date: Jul 22, 2014 02:14 PM EDT

Bats also use patterns of polarized light in the sky to navigate, according to a new study.

Researchers showed that female greater mouse-eared bats use the way the sun's light is scattered in the atmosphere at sunset to calibrate their internal magnetic compasses.

“We had already demonstrated that bats used a magnetic compass that was calibrated by cues observed at sunset,” said Richard Holland of Queen’s University Belfast, in the press release. “The question was, what cues? It was known that birds calibrate the magnetic field with the pattern of polarization at sunset, so we tried the same for bats.”

Bats usually fly hundreds of miles in a night, returning home before sunrise to avoid predators. . "But, until now, how they achieved such feats of navigation wasn't clear," Stefan Greif, of Queen’s University Belfast added, according to Yahoo.

The findings of the study suggest that bats likely use many senses like sight, sound, and Earth's magnetic field, to navigate.

“We know that bats can use echolocation and vision for navigation when they are in a familiar place or can see familiar cues,” Holland added. “But outside this range the ‘map and compass’ mechanism comes into play, where the animal determines its position and then takes up the compass direction it needs to head in to reach its goal.”

The study has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

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