Saturday, 23 September 2017

Tent-Making Bats Can Vary Their Heart Rate from 200 to 1,000 Beats per Minute

Uroderma bilobatum. Image courtesy of Charlesjsharp, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Joel Kontinen

The tent-making bat (Uroderma bilobatum) is a tiny creature, weighing 20 grams (0.7 oz.) or less and has a body length of roughly 6 centimetres (2.4 in).

It gets its name from building tent-like structures from giant leaves.

The amazing thing about this Panaman bat is that it can vary its heart rate from over 1,000 beats per minute to 200 beats. A slower heartbeat helps to save energy.

A recent paper in the journal eLife by Teague O’Mara, an ecologist at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany, and colleagues analysed the lifestyle of these bats.

Reporting on the study, an article in Science says:

But the big surprise was that when the bats were resting, their hearts periodically slowed down sharply, O’Mara and colleagues report this week in eLife. Several times each hour, the bats lowered their already slowed heart rates from about 300 beats per minute down to 200 beats per minute for about 6 minutes. Over the course of a day this saves 10% of their daily energy budget, the researchers report.”

We might call this fuel efficiency or the preservation of energy, and it looks like the bat has been designed to be efficient in varying circumstances.

It is not alone in this. We can see intelligent behaviour both in plants and animals, as well as hi-tech solutions almost everywhere, including in us.

Bats pose several other problems to Darwinism. They can fly really fast. Some fruit bats have a smart navigation system that tells them where to go.

Echolocation is another. It seems that even the earliest bats could echolocate.


Pennisi, Elizabeth. 2017. To avoid starving, this bat varies its heart rate from 1000 to 200 beats per minute. Science (22 September).