Echolocating night-hunting aerial interceptors

ew_bookcoverThe book Evolutionary Wars contains a section bearing the title above. In layman’s terms, it describes the method by which bats hunt insects at night.

Author Levy writes,

The most difficult task for nocturnal airborne predators is to detect, locate, intercept and successfully engage a moving target.  To achieve success, the predator must acquire an almost continuous stream of information giving instantaneous data about the target’s size, velocity, direction and altitude. (pg. 188)

The complexity of the work involved for mere survival of the bat is astounding.  Flying is only one complex function. By its description echolocating is several — essentially using its “naturally” occurring sonar capability to navigate and hunt without being able to physically “see” it’s prey.

As part of a lengthy technical description of how bats eat insects, Levy says,

If the echo returns at a lower pitch, the target is moving away; if the echo is at a higher pitch, the target is approaching. Each ear picks up the echo at a slightly different intensity and time.  In this way, the bat’s minuscule on board computer, it’s 10 milligram brain automatically triangulates and gives in-flight directions for the intercept.

illustration by Paul Mirocha

illustration by Paul Mirocha

Charles Levy implies a slight in his opinion of this remarkable creature when he  describes the bat’s brain by weight.  Admittedly, only ten milligrams for a brain is only a tiny fraction of the weight of the brain an average human carries around in their head, is around three pounds.

On the other hand, I’ve learned there are some birds that seem to be a bit smarter than some people I know — maybe that’s why the expression “bird brain” has been frequently used as an insult because of the human’s advantage in brain size. But we don’t use most of our brains. And we often describe animals as “dumb”, but consider the fact that a bat can naturally accomplish a number of things which a human cannot, without help.

Sure, humans can fly, but not without airplanes or wingsuits. We can mimic the bat’s ability to echo locate by using sonar and radar equipment built by intelligent humans, but we can’t safely navigate by air, land, or water without being able to see where we are going or special devices specifically developed to assist us in those tasks.

By comparison, the bat’s brain seems to be perfectly designed for it’s body. After all, if a bat had a three pound brain, it wouldn’t be able to fly.

Do bats serve a purpose?  Of course they do.  Many different types of bats eat insects. Keeping the insect population under control seems to be a valuable function to provide the overall environment, especially since Rachel Carson’s inflammatory book started the movement that led to the ban on DDT.

Any birth defects allegedly prevented by the ban on DDT are easily negated by the estimated sixty million needless deaths due to malaria and other insect-born diseases estimated to have occurred since the ban on DDT was instituted by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1972.

DDT has been proved to be much safer than Carson’s book Silent Spring claimed. To prove how safe the pesticide actually is, some scientists have actually drunk supposedly lethal amounts of DDT on camera, with no ill effect. As reported in Ecoworld’s website by chemist Edward Wheeler, DDT is very safe and effective. However, for too many people, real truth doesn’t matter anymore.

Yet for those same people (and especially the eco-warriors), once they have made up their mind that something is bad for the environment, it becomes immutable. No matter how powerful or convincing that contradictory evidence may be, they can no longer be convinced of the truth.

Once they have become convinced that DDT is harmful and dangerous, neither logic, reason, or scientific evidence can convince them otherwise.

Those same people might also believe that carbon dating tests conducted in the late 1980s had proved the Shroud of Turin was a medieval forgery, and they will flatly reject compelling new evidence that established the 1988 tests used a contaminated sample – dismissing the new evidence without even looking at it.

Radical environmentalists would rather believe that the companies that produce the chemical pesticide are inherently evil, and they would rather poison people than help save them. Because of radical environmentalists, it’s no longer politically correct (or legal) to use DDT, and babies in south Florida are being born with horrible birth defects due to the Zika virus instead.

Although it’s also true that bats can carry rabies, the percentage of bats with rabies is quite small, which means the risk of getting rabies from a bat is a lot less than the risk of getting malaria or worse virus from a mosquito bite. So we need bats, because we need fewer mosquitoes.

We must love, cherish and protect our echolocating night-hunting aerial interceptors, because until common sense and solid scientific evidence convince the radical environmentalists that our best weapons against disease already exist, bats are about our best defense against mosquito-born diseases.

rachel-carson-and-silent-spring-radiogreenearth-488Though she probably only meant well, Rachel Carson is allegedly responsible for more deaths than Hitler, Stalin, and the Black Plague combined.

Sixty million people.

The road to Hell really must be paved with “good” intentions…and marked for traffic by “bad” science.