Sucker-footed bat hangs upright using "modified sweat", not suction

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Washington, December 18 (ANI): A new study has found that a rare bat which roosts upright clings to slick leaves by secreting a "modified sweat" into pads on its wrists and ankles.

Until now, scientists had thought that the bat, which is a Madagascar native dubbed Myzopoda aurita, or sucker-footed bat, used its pads like biological suction cups. ut, according to a report in National Geographic News, the new research shows that the bat is actually using wet adhesion, a sticky trick employed by certain insects and tree frogs.

"It's what allows flies to hang on to smooth surfaces like glass ceilings or wet paper to stick to your windshield. It's the surface tension of water," said study author Daniel Riskin, an evolutionary biologist at Brown University in Rhode Island.

Of the 1,200 or so species of bat worldwide, only 6 are known to roost upright, rather than the usual upside down position.

The sucker-footed bat does so while clinging to the broad, fanlike leaves of the traveler's palm, a tree native to Madagascar.

Researchers had long thought that Madagascar's bats were suctioning to the leaves just like their upright counterparts in Central and South America.

During recent field experiments, Riskin and his team tested this assumption by placing the Madagascar bats on metal plates that had evenly spaced holes, making it impossible to establish suction.

"To use suction, you have to create a sealed volume" with a partial vacuum, Riskin explained.

"This changes the pressure inside the volume so that it's lower than outside. That's what pushes the surfaces together," he added.

Surprisingly, the bats had no problem clinging to the perforated plates.

"The name of this bat is wrong. It's not the sucker-footed bat, but the wet-adhesion bat. But it's been named in Latin, so you can't change it," Riskin said.

The bats likely evolved their upright-roosting stance because they tend to rest in new palm leaves, which are curled up like ice-cream cones.

Since the leaves' openings are above the bats, the animals roost upward to make exiting easier, according to Riskin. (ANI)

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