A Pallas
A Pallas's long tongue bat showing off its namesake! Photo by Betty Wills, Wikimedia Commons.

Hi everyone! I hope you all had a good week. It has been a very wet one here in the DC area. It has rained and poured pretty much all week. The plants are all really happy, but I feel sorry for all the little critters. There are some pretty wet looking little squirrels in my neighborhood and I think the little bats must all be soaking too. I hope they are able to dry out soon and fly around to find some yummy little bugs to eat.

Meanwhile, I have some batty math news. You know how you learn a lot of stuff in school and you wonder when you’ll ever get to use it? I often feel that way. I mean, when am I ever going to really need to be able to graph an algebraic function in my day to day life? Well, a woman named Alice Nasto has managed to demonstrate a wonderful use of some of the math that she learned in school! It’s a lot of math that I don’t understand, but it proved useful to her. Ms. Nasto is a mechanical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. She was studying hairy structures and how they trap liquids. Since the tongue of a Pallas’ long-tongued bat is covered with long, hair-like structures, she decided to study how this bat’s tongue works.

She realized that all the little hairy structures on the bat’s tongue increase the tongue’s surface area. So, there is more space on the tongue for nectar to stick to. Ms. Nasto used a lot of fancy math to discover whether or not the Pallas’ long-tongued bat’s tongue was as efficient as it could be. She and her team of scientists ran experiments with four different models of sample tongues. Their experiments and all their calculations showed that there is actually an ideal combination of hair size and spacing to lap up nectar. After all their experiments were finished, they discovered that the Pallas’ long-tongued bat’s tongue is just about perfect. Thanks to all the hairs on this bat’s tongue, it is able to lap up about 10 times as much nectar as it would be if it had a smooth tongue. What these experiments showed was that the bats have evolved to do their very best job. They really are amazing little creatures, aren’t they?

If you would like to read more about this study, you can find information here.

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