Bats are vital natural pest controllers, saving the use of millions of pounds of pesticides by eating insects, but many species are declining across Europe, despite being protected, because wind turbines are seriously harming their populations. “It’s most common in migratory species, with around 300,000 bats affected every year in Europe alone. Bats are found dead at the bottom of these turbines. One option is to reduce turbine activity during times of peak migration,” says Richard Holland. Ph.D., of Queen’s University Belfast, co-author of a study published in Nature Communications that sheds light on the problem.
Scientists have discovered the first known example of a mammal to use polarization patterns in the sky to navigate in the greater mouse-eared bat. The study demonstrates that the bats use the way sunlight is scattered in the atmosphere at sunset to calibrate the internal magnetic compass that helps them to fly in the right direction.
Holland says, “Bees have specially adapted photoreceptors in their eyes, and birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles all have cone cell structures in their eyes which may help them to detect polarization, but we don’t know which structure these bats might be using. Anything we can do to understand how they get about, how they move and navigate will be a step forward in helping to protect them.”
Source: Natural Environment Research Council (nerc.ac.uk)