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Bats room able to cave while lock sleep. Becker1999/Flickr listed the mean personhasn"t sprung a leak, they havebetweenfive and also seven liters the bloodsloshing about theirbody at any kind of given time.All this red stuffis topic to among the supreme rulers the the universe: gravity. And also atno time is this an ext evident than once youdangle upside under or hang her head off of the bed due to the fact that you’re being goofy.

You are watching: How can bats hang upside down without blood going to their head


All the blood beginsrushing in the direction of yournoggin, puttingserious pressure on your brain and bring about aheadache.

Were girlfriend toremain in that place for a long sufficient time, you"dpass out. Suffice it to say, the human bodywasn"t design foran upside-down life.

How then, cananimals like bats— which are, like us,mammals — sleep upside down for 15-20 hours a daywithout your heads bursting choose a rubber band-strapped watermelon? and also how dotheir feetmanage to host a gripwhen they dip into sleep and also their muscles relax? The answer, i m sorry lies in a couple of organic tricks gifted come them by evolution, speaks to thenature of person sleep.

When bats close increase shop after ~ a night that foraging because that fruit or capturing insects, they end up going to roost in secluded spots in nests of millions, tiny groups the hundreds or familial bands the a few. And they"re every hanging upside down, whether they’re experimentation the verity of some bad tree or gaining cozy in a farmer"sbarn.


Bats hang because that a couple of reasons.Being able to dangle from your feet, for example, gives them an ext options when trying to find places to roost(the ceilings that caves gift the most obvious). Andnapping in this hard-to-reach, isolatedspots help them avoid predators, largely birds that prey, the are active during the day when bats room sleeping and therefore in ~ their most vulnerable.

Hanging upside down is also the only means that these flying mammals can take off. They"re not able come get sufficient lift come launch from the ground, nor perform they have actually serviceable sufficient hind legs to obtain arunning begin fortakeoff. But, “by simply dropping down from a cave ceiling, or tree branch, a bat deserve to quickly and effectively achieve flight,” Phil Garofolo the theOrganization because that Bat ConservationtoldVan Winkle’s.

And while we humans have quarts that blood flowing v our heavy, fleshy bodies,bats, by comparison have hardly any. Your average homo sapien weighs between 150 to 180 pounds, where also the biggest bats on earth (the black color flying fox and golden crowned paris fox that Australia and the Philippines, respectively) just clock in in ~ about2.5 pounds. Many bat speciesweigh only ounces. Due to the fact that they load sofew pounds and also such little blood,gravity no affecttheir circulation, thus freeing them from the remarkable vice-like push that would torment any huge animal the hangs upside down.

Okay, now that the rush-of-blood-to-the-head-mystery is solved, just how do bats achieve theHoudini-like feat that clinging to a cliff ceiling or tree branch after ~ they’ve fallen asleep? an olympic gymnast can probably droop downwards turn off a high bar, stop on by the crooksof their knees and dangle there in a fairly relaxed position. But, the minute the gymnastloses awareness — either since ofexcess blood circulation to the head, or amiraculous capacity to autumn asleep in that position— theirrelaxed muscles would loosen your grip, gravity would certainly take over and also down would certainly come baby.


Evolution by natural selection has put together a winning combination for bats to overcome this problem. Similar to the way ahorse"s leg muscle stiffento let that sleep was standing up,bats have developed a locking mechanism of sorts that keeps their claws and feet clenched. The tendons in bats’ feet travel with a roughsheath-like structurein their ankles the closes tight upon the tendon as soon as the ends of it space pulled. As with a chinese finger trap.

And prefer a finger trap, as soon as one of these critters alights upon a tree limb or absent crag and also hangs down, the pull of your body weight downward stretches that sheath and also locks your feet in place, letting themrelax your musclesand exert zero energy.

“Whereas our hands are normally open in ~ rest, a bat expels no extra energy keeping their claws closed,” said Garofalo, that added, “to relax from a wall, a bat actually has to flex their muscles.” This system works for this reason well, in fact, that it can cause issues in old period or death. Garofalo defined that “as a bat it s okay older, arthritis can become an concern — fairly than no being able to cling come ceilings, they actually obtain stuck easier as their fingers become harder to open.” and if they dice while hanging, they’ll likelycontinue to do solong afterwards.

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What all of this distinct sleeping behaviorultimately highlights, however, is the universal need for sleep in the animal kingdom, throughout all creatures. Lock allmake that work. Whalesbob close to the surface, resting one fifty percent of their brain at a time therefore they can still maintain breathing function (they can"tbreathe underwater); frigate birds, which take trip long ranges overseas and cannot swim,catch sleepfor minute at a time when gliding thousands of feet in the air; and humans and also apes build physically and also mentallycomfortable bedsin order to give our complex, sleep-hungry brains the deep sleep they require to function properly. Sleep is vital to ours evolution and also so is evolution to our sleep.