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New Study Confirms That Bats Can Sense the Speed of Sound

From Audio: Bats on Helium Reveal an Innate Sense of the Speed of Sound

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60-Second Science
Duration: 03:47
Scientists in Tel Aviv tested whether bats whether have an innate sense of the speed of sound, or if they use echolocation and practice to sense it correctly. Their findings supported the hypothesis that bats' sense of sound is innate.
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Scientists in Tel Aviv tested whether bats whether have an innate sense of the speed of sound, or if they use echolocation and practice to sense it correctly. Their findings supported the hypothesis that bats' sense of sound is innate. In their new environment, the bats adapted immediately, which indicates that bats don't use their echolocation to sense the speed f sound, but rather have an innate reference point.
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into a distance to their target. Those pings would not normally be audible to our human ears, but we slowed them down so you can hear how a bat closes in on an object. Now, a new study shows that to get a leg up or a wing up on the necessary navigational calculations, bats have an innate sense of the speed of sound. The work appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It has always been assumed that that's used the speed of sound in order to assess distance. So basically their brains measured time and then if they know the speed of sound, they can assess the distance to the target using it. You see evil of tel Aviv University, but this assumes that they know the speed of sound. And this was never actually tested. That's where the helium comes in. one of the things we did is we took pops that were actually never exposed to a regular air and we rear them an environment that is enriched in helium in order to see whether they will learn a new speed of sound because helium is lighter than air. Sound travels faster and helium enriched medium, which means their echolocation sounds would come back faster, making objects seem closer than they really are. Now, if bats learned to estimate distances based on the speed of sound they experience growing up pops raised in the presence of helium when they're later placed in a chamber of dense, regular air should act like targets are farther away, which means their echo location pings should be longer and spaced farther apart than they were in the helios mix and longer and farther apart. Then the echolocation calls of pups that were raised in regular air and are therefore used to its density about same logic, the air pumps should mistake targets and helio X as closer than they are. And use echolocation pings that are shorter and more tightly spaced. We saw none of these Iran um Kay, now a postdoc at Dartmouth College, worked with these befuddled bats as a student in Yeovil's lab. They used the same values and they displayed the same sensory error no matter where they were born and raised. So that tells us it's basically in eight. In other words, in the heli ox makes all the pups acted as if their target was closer than it was, which means they all came to the table with an innate feel for the speed of sound based on a world filled with regular air. And the same was true of adult bats, which also couldn't adjust their echolocation behavior to accommodate different concentrations of helium. They are unable to relearn a new reference to the speed of sound and that tells us that this is fixed and not flexible. This lack of flexibility might seem like a liability, especially because the speed at which sound travels can sometimes vary by a few percent depending on air temperature and humidity. But Yeovil hypothesizes that coming into the world with a fixed notion of the speed of sound is probably a plus. Many of these vets. You know, they're born in summer and they have two very quickly start flying and forging independently and therefore it's really important that they acquire their sensory, their echolocation sensing system ability is very, very rapidly and therefore it might be beneficial to have an innate reference and rather than something that you have to learn and might take time and you might learn an heiress um value. Especially if you find yourself in a heli ops chamber in a certain lab in tel Aviv for scientific americans, 62nd science. I'm Karen
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