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Bats, wolves feel the heat

News from the annual meeting of the American Society of Mammalogists in Laramie, Wyo., June 11-15

Bats with radiator stripes
Thermal images reveal built-in air conditioning

Plenty of biologists have handled Brazilian free-tailed bats, but none had noticed a feature now revealed by thermal imagery: a heat-radiating stripe on each wing.

In images that show zones of body heat, these bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) look as if they’re wearing pale suspenders as they swoop in and out of a roost in Texas. Once the images revealed where to look, Jonathan Reichard of Boston University looked at live bats and spotted a narrow, ladderlike array of blood vessels running along the wing, near the body.

These stripes appear to be a new example of what biologists call a thermal window, like the blood vessels in a toucan beak, Reichard said. Animals flush these zones with blood to cool down and shunt blood away to avoid chills.

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