|Mountain long-eared bat|
This is a blog about mammals, so it's only right to point out, every now and then, that birds have no monopoly on animal flight. The only mammals capable of true flight are, of course, the bats - flying squirrels and their ilk can only glide, not truly fly. (Nor are mammals and birds alone, of course; there are many flying insects, and once upon a time there were also pterosaurs). Still, birds have been flying for much longer than bats have, so might they be better at it?
A recent study by Florian Muijres and colleagues reveals, perhaps surprisingly, that the answer is 'yes'. They put birds and bats in a wind tunnel, and measured their ability to generate lift, and the lift-to-drag ratio, which indicates how much energy they have to put into it. By both measures, birds outperformed bats of similar size. Why so? After all, while birds have been flying for three times as long as bats have, the oldest known bat fossil is still very old, and you'd think they'd be pretty good at it by now.