Bat Tops 100 MPH to Become Fastest Animal in the Sky

The Brazilian free-tailed bat bests the common swift in the aerial speed demon category.

<p><em>MPI for Ornithology</em><span></span></p>

Records were made to be broken, and scientists have found a surprising new title-holder for horizontal flight speed in the animal kingdom.

Researchers from the United States and Germany's Max Planck Institute for Ornithology have clocked the Brazilian free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) flying at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour (160 kilometers per hour).

The finding surprised the researchers, because bats are not generally considered top speedsters: Their wing structures tend to generate more resistance, putting a literal drag on their velocity.

The Brazilian free-tailed bat, however, has longer-than-average wings and what the researchers termed a "projectile-like" body.

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"Initially, we could hardly believe our data, but they were correct. At times, the female bats, which weigh between 11 and 12 grams, flew at speeds of over 160 kilometers per hour, a new record for horizontal flight," said Kamran Safi, of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, in a statement.

Birds in the swift family, such as a the common swift, have until now been considered the top speed demons in the animal kingdom, able to hit speeds of about 68 miler per hour (110 kilometers per hour). And peregrine falcons, for their part, can reach a blurry 186 miles per hour (300 kilometers per hour) when diving.

The researchers obtained the speed numbers by attaching tiny radio transmitters weighing 0.02 ounces (0.05 grams) to the test bats' backs (the adhesive fails and the devices fall off in a few days). Receivers on small airplanes tracked the signals.

Detailed results of the scientists' findings have been published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

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