Scientists solve age-old mystery of horseshoe bat's elongated nose

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Washington, July 8 (ANI): Scientists have solved the mystery of a bat with an extraordinarily long nose, by determining that the creature uses its elongated nose to create a highly focused sonar beam, which helps in the detection of its environment.

The bat, called the Bourret's horseshoe bat (known scientifically as the "Rhinolophus paradoxolophus," meaning paradoxical crest), has a nose that is roughly 9 millimeters in length.

"The typical horseshoe bat's nose is half that long," said Rolf Mueller, an associate professor with the Virginia Tech mechanical engineering department and director for the Bio-inspired Technology (BIT) Laboratory in Danville, Virginia.

"This nose is so much larger than anything else," among other bats of the region, he said.

Mueller's findings show that the bat uses its elongated nose to create a highly focused sonar beam.

Bats detect their environment through ultrasonic beams, or sonar, emitted from their mouths - or noses, as in the case of the paradoxolophus bat.

The echoes of the sound wave convey a wealth of information on objects in the bat's environment.

Much like a flashlight with an adjuster that can create an intense but small beam of light, the bat's nose can create a small but intense sonar beam.

Mueller and his team used computer animation to compare varying sizes of bat noses, from small noses on other bats to the large nose of the paradoxolophus bat.

In what Mueller calls a perfect mark of evolution, he says his computer modeling shows the length of the paradoxolophus bat's nose stops at the exact point the sonar beam's focal point would become ineffective.

"By predicting the width of the ultrasonic beam for each of these nose lengths with a computational method, we found that the natural nose length has a special value: All shortened noses provided less focus of the ultrasonic beam, whereas artificially elongated noses provided only negligible additional benefits," Mueller said.

"Hence, this unusual case of a biological shape can be predicted accurately from its physical function alone," he added. (ANI)

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