Watching This Vampire Bat On A Treadmill Never Gets Old

We think of bats as swooping through the air to hunt their prey, but the vampire bat is known to creep along the ground to stalk its prey. Put it on a tiny treadmill, and the crafty critter can also break into a full gallop, using its wings to propel itself along the ground.

The above (highly disconcerting) video is actually from 2005, but it's making the rounds on the Internet today, no doubt in honour of Halloween. And also because it's a vampire bat. On a treadmill. Man, that never gets old.

For all the inherent entertainment value, this is bona fide legit research dating back to 2005, when Nature published a short communication by Cornell professor John W. Hermanson and his then-graduate student, Dan Riskin. While doing field work in Trinidad, they captured five adult male vampire bats (Desmodus rotundas) and stuck them on tiny treadmills inside a Plexiglass cage, the better to study the biomechanics of how they moved.

They started with the treadmill at slow speeds -- even vampire bats need a good warmup period -- and then gradually increased the speed to see how the animal would adapt. The bats surprised them by eventually breaking into a run -- unprecedented behaviour among bats until then. At the time, Riskin likened the gait to being "like a horse going from a walk to a gallop over a very short amount of time."

[Via Slate]

Reference:

Riskin, D.K. and Hermanson, J.W. (2005) "Independent evolution of running in vampire bats," Nature 434: 292.