Thursday, February 4, 2010

Designated Fliers

In a "is it Friday yet?" kind of way, I thought I would share this little post. A recent paper in PLoS One by Orbach et al. presents results showing that frugivorous and nectarivorous bats do not appear to be affected by consuming alcohol. The authors fed bats either a sugar solution or sugar+alcohol (strawberry daquiri?) solution. They then gave the bats an aerial obstacle course to test their speed and agility. They also recorded the bats' echolocation calls. Although there were differences between the species that they tested, there were no observed effects of treatment - the "drunk" bats did just as well as the "sober" bats. This was true, even though the estimated BAC's of the bats were sometimes very high - more than 0.3%. Thus, these bats seem perfectly capable of utilizing rotting fruits as food sources with no chiropteran "slurred speech" and little or no danger to themselves or others. Large, virtually hairless primates such as ourselves, do not appear so well adapted and should exercise caution.

I give thanks to Sam Crane who patiently walked me through PhotoShop again so I could make this picture.

10 comments:

Poletarac said...

Hm, I think that my ability to get wasted from alcohol is an exaptation.

Tom Near said...

I am going out to dinner with colleagues in my department tonight. After reading this post I will be sure to not fly home, but let my wife pick me up!

Neil said...

Hmmm...

Great minds think alike I suppose!

Susan Perkins said...

And then there's this one.

It's a really nice write-up of the paper...but I still think my photoshopped pic is better.

Dan Warren said...

So that's why that bat wouldn't go home with me no matter how many drinks I bought it.

Dan said...

Nearly hairless(?)- you should have seen the guy next to me at the airport bar! And- this makes me glad I am not a bat (I suppose at some level I had been glad of that before, but have never verbalized it until just now)

Neil said...

Well, I still claim credit for taxonomic/ecological accuracy. That pipistrelle is an insectivore! And that Cynopterus with a beer bong is would bit more plausible if it wasn't violating the laws of physics!

Susan Perkins said...

Agreed, Neil...the beer bong would have been even better if the bat were like it was supposed to be! And who knows - they didn't test any insectivores, so there's no control as to whether the ability to handle their booze rests solely amongst the frugivores. One would think...but one does not know.

Neil said...

Well, maybe if they're eating a lot of Hypopta...

[resisting...speculative diatribe...about...regional and dietary variation of bat metabolism....]

Sonja Stark of PilotGirl™ said...

When I run at night I'm always weary of bats swooping at my head and getting caught in my locks. Is there any truth to bats actually doing this?