Tactile hairs in wing membranes of bats serve as flight control organs by providing immediate sensorimotor feedback.

“Bats are the only mammals capable of powered flight, and they perform
impressive aerial maneuvers like tight turns, hovering,
and perching upside down. The bat wing contains
five digits, and its specialized membrane is covered with stiff,
small, domed hairs. We provide here unique
empirical evidence that the tactile receptors associated with these
hairs are involved
in sensorimotor flight control by providing
aerodynamic feedback. We found that neurons in bat primary somatosensory
respond with directional sensitivity to stimulation
of the wing hairs with low-speed airflow…the hairs act as an array of sensors to
monitor flight speed and/or airflow conditions that indicate stall.
of different functional regions of the bats’ wing
membrane altered the flight behavior in obstacle avoidance tasks by
aerial maneuverability, as indicated by decreased
turning angles and increased flight speed.” (Sterbing-D’Angelo et al. 2011:11291)

Last Updated August 18, 2016