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Smooth surfaces interfere with bats' sonar and cause collisions

Bats are world-class echolocators, capable of navigating tight spaces and detecting minuscule insects. Photo: iStock / ivkuzmin

Bats are world-class echolocators, capable of navigating tight spaces and detecting minuscule insects. But smooth manmade structures can foil their sonar, a study published today in Science finds, potentially causing fatal collisions.

Why it matters: Bats are voracious eaters of insects, including many agricultural pests. They play a key role in keeping bug populations down. But urban noise pollution, habitat loss, pesticide use, wind farms and a fungal disease are causing bat populations to plummet. This study could explain why dead bats are frequently found near buildings.