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Bat face shapes sound

Oversized appendage may aid in long-distance signals

4:23pm, June 25, 2009

When it comes to making sounds, size matters, at least to some bats. An oversized facial structure called a sella may help the Bourret’s horseshoe bat focus its sonar signals into a narrow beam, allowing the bat to sense faraway objects, researchers suggest in an upcoming Physical Review Letters. Understanding how shapes mold sound waves may lead to better acoustic devices, says study coauthor Rolf Müller of Virginia Tech’s Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville.

In addition to preventing a Bourret’s horseshoe bat, Rhinolophus paradoxolophus, from winning beauty contests, convoluted face folding actually has an important job, Müller says. The bat’s extraordinarily long ear-shaped appendage, averaging 9.1 millimeters, protrudes from the front of a broader structure called a noseleaf, which sits above the bat’s nose. While some bats emit sonar signals from the mouth, Bourret’s bats emit sound

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