Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Do you call a drunk bat “wingless”?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-01-31

Some bats seem to love their booze, and fly faster through obstacle courses when they are drunk.

"Drinking and Flying: Does Alcohol Consumption Affect the Flight and Echolocation Performance of Phyllostomid Bats?" (PLoS One, 2010-02-01 officially) has experimenters thinking about whether the fermented fruit bats eat (which can get up to 4.5% alcohol in some parts of the world) would affect the way they deal with an obstacle flying course made of linked plastic chains about a wingspan apart.

Well, some species appeared to get quite drunk as far as blood levels went, with a significant number getting themselves above 0.3%BAC, and some species avoided stronger alcohol unless they were hungry, yet apart from speed (some species slowing down when drunk, others speeding up), behaviour was unaffected.

It looks like the ability to handle your drink is important for bat evolution.

Of the 5 species tested, three took significantly longer to fly the course when drunk yet, yet two of these didn’t get themselves as sloshed as the other two "hoon" species, which loved their booze (almost all of them got themselves over 0.04%BAC, three quarters were over 0.08%, and about a fifth should have been "wingless" at over 0.3%) and got faster when drunk.

Sturnira lilium seemed to love their booze more than the others.  One of the slower flyers when sober, with a few under its little batty belt, out comes the nitro and the afterburners.  Little bogans!

If S. lilium is around, don’t got leaving unattended alcopops about… it’ll disappear in no time and you’ll have a swarm of bats doing the aerial equivalent of doughnuts around your clothesline.

Some species get faster when drunk, others slower

Some species get faster when drunk, others slower

How drunk were the different bat species?  Some were drunker than others... up to 0.3%BAC, with lots getting well over 0.08%

Just how drunk were the bats?

Flap! Flap! Flap! (Hic!) Flap! Flap! Flap! (Haec!) Flap! Flap! Flap! (Hoc!)


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