06 March 2012

New wake study of a bat from Brown university

In a new study, published on-line in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, the Brown University group report on wake measurements from the Brazilian free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis), using the PIV technique in a wind tunnel (Hubel et al.). This species differs in morphology and ecology from previously studied bat species, having higher aspect ratio wings and mainly flying in he open airspace when feeding on insects. So, does that make it's wake and aerodynamic properties different from other bats? The answer is "no"! Even if the authors argue that the Brazilian free-tailed bat has a wake very similar to that of the swift (Apus apus), it shows all of the characteristic wake features previously observed in bats. These include wing-root vortices and revers-vortices shed at the end of the upstroke. According to the authors when comparing the new data with previously studied bats: "the structure of their wakes is remarkably similar". Hence, it seems as if the notion of a typical "bat wake" receives support from this new study. Further studies will hopefully answer what features of the bat design make bat wakes different from those of birds.

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