Stories tagged bats

Jun
11
2007

Wind farms produce clean energy, but some people consider them eyesores: Photo by fieldsbh at Flickr.com
Wind farms produce clean energy, but some people consider them eyesores: Photo by fieldsbh at Flickr.com

A new book, Cape Wind: Money, Celebrity, Class, Politics, and the Battle for Our Energy Future on Nantucket Sound, tells the story of efforts to build wind turbines off the coast of Cape Cod to provide clean, renewable energy for the state of Massachusetts. However, some of the wealthy people who live in the area – including some renowned environmentalists – object to the project located so close to their own homes.

This article from the Cape Cod Times describes some of the legal maneuvering that has thus far blocked the project. One objection is that wind turbines kill migrating birds. The reporter did some research and came up with the following statistics:

Human-caused bird deaths

• Domestic cats: Hundreds of millions a year
• Striking high-tension lines: 130 million - 1 billion a year
• Striking buildings: 97 million to 976 million a year
• Cars: 80 million a year
• Toxic chemicals: 72 million
• Striking communications towers: 4 to 50 million a year
• Wind turbines: 20,000 to 37,000

Source: National Research Council

Clearly, turbines are not a major threat to birds, while the clean energy they provide would be a major boost to the environment. So why are some environmentalists opposed? The authors of the book say it’s because the turbines, several miles off the coast, would still be visible from their beach-front property. (It is also interesting to note that some of the anti-turbine legislation has been proposed by congressmen from states that just happen to produce a lot of coal.)

For an overview of the issue, read this article from The Boston Phoenix.

Jun
20
2006

Common Vampire Bat: Courtesy of Wikipedia
Common Vampire Bat: Courtesy of Wikipedia

The common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus) has a diet that consists exclusively of blood. These predators, which are approximately the size of a human thumb, are able to consume 1.4 times their body weight in blood each night.

So how do they do that?

Vampire bats have been known to have a keen sense of smell as well as the unique ability to sense infrared radiation given off by warm-blooded animals.

It was recently determined that they have another extraordinary sense, the ability to detect their prey based on the sound of its breathing. They remember the sound of their victim's breath and then use that fact to relocate the exact same animal to prey on later.

Researchers at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, Germany, taught 3 vampire bats to associate 10 second recordings of human breathing with specific food containers. The bats recognized the sounds and connected them to the correct dispenser every time. They beat out humans who took a similar test using computers with touch-screens. Humans could not identify any of the breathing sounds under stress, but the bats were able to every time.

The researchers discovered that bats have specialized brain cells that are stimulated only by the breathing sounds.

Sounds scary!

Don't worry, you should be safe here in Minnesota, but if you ever find yourself sleeping outside in the rainforests of South America, be careful!