A bat never forgets: Study finds bats create detailed mental maps

According to the study, bats, which have bad eyesight, rely on memory to navigate familiar spaces.

It may not be elephants, but rather bats who truly never forget.

A study published in The Journal of Experimental Biology reports that bats have excellent spatial memory that allows them to navigate familiar locations easily.

The study looked at big brown bats, Eptesicus fuscus, and concluded "the limited operating range of biosonor implies that bats must rely upon spatial memory in familiar spaces with dimensions larger than a few meters."

That means the bats, despite having poor eyesight, can make mental maps of places they've been to and use those, in addition to their sonar, to navigate.

In the study, for six days bats were released into a dark room with chains hanging from the ceiling. The researchers documented the bats' paths and sonar calls as they navigated the room.

"After the first day, the repetition rate of sonar broadcasts dropped to a stable level, consistent with low-density clutter," the study says.

After two days, the researchers noticed a pattern: The bats were learning how to weave between the obstacles in the room, even when they were released into it from several different starting points.

Even three months after the experience, the bats remembered the room and how to fly safely through it.

"Overall," the study says, "the flight patterns indicate that the bats perceive the cluttered space as a single scene through which they develop globally organized flight paths."

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