New research on the cellular function and structure of bat wings could help in the design of more agile aircraft.
As the only mammals capable of powered flight, bats have long intrigued researchers hoping to better understand aerodynamic principles that can be applied to manmade aircraft.
A recent Johns Hopkins University investigation of bat wings, published in the journal Cell Reports, determined that bat wings possess touch sensors that respond to the slightest changes in airflow, Discovery reports.
The nerve cells in bats' wings are connected to the lower part of the spinal cord, whereas typically in other animals these cells would only connect with the upper portion. The consequence of this configuration renders the entire body ideal for flight.
The research specifically focuses on how tiny hairs on the wings of bats rapidly sense changes in airflow, from tiny breezes to heavy gusts. The principles behind such heightened sensitivity can be applied to the future design of search-and-rescue, military, and commercial aircraft to better navigate obstacles, according to the study.