Ultraviolet vision may be widespread in bats

Acta Chiropterologica
By: , and 



Insectivorous bats are well known for their abilities to find and pursue flying insect prey at close range using echolocation, but they also rely heavily on vision. For example, at night bats use vision to orient across landscapes, avoid large obstacles, and locate roosts. Although lacking sharp visual acuity, the eyes of bats evolved to function at very low levels of illumination. Recent evidence based on genetics, immunohistochemistry, and laboratory behavioral trials indicated that many bats can see ultraviolet light (UV), at least at illumination levels similar to or brighter than those before twilight. Despite this growing evidence for potentially widespread UV vision in bats, the prevalence of UV vision among bats remains unknown and has not been studied outside of the laboratory. We used a Y-maze to test whether wild-caught bats could see reflected UV light and whether such UV vision functions at the dim lighting conditions typically experienced by night-flying bats. Seven insectivorous species of bats, representing five genera and three families, showed a statistically significant ‘escape-toward-the-light’ behavior when placed in the Y-maze. Our results provide compelling evidence of widespread dim-light UV vision in bats.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Ultraviolet vision may be widespread in bats
Series title Acta Chiropterologica
DOI 10.3161/15081109ACC2015.17.1.017
Volume 17
Issue 1
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Sciences
Publisher location Warszawa, Poland
Contributing office(s) Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center
Description 6 p.
First page 193
Last page 198
Country United States
State Arizona, Colorado
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N