Fact or Fiction: Are you really as blind as a bat?

Illustration by Lindsay Lang.

By Maia Wiederhold, illustrator.

We’ve all heard someone in our lives use the phrase “blind as a bat” to describe someone who can’t see very well, but contrary to popular belief, bats really aren’t all that blind.

Bats are pretty unique predators in the way that they use echolocation to hunt their prey at night. They produce sounds and then navigate their way through darkness by using the reflection of those sounds off of the objects around them. This fact is most likely where the belief that bats are blind originated from. However, many bats can see quite well in addition to their echolocation.

In the article “6 Bat Myths Busted: Are They Really Blind?” by National Geographic, executive director of the Michigan-based Organization for Bat Conservation Rob Mies shares that certain species of bats can actually see up to three times better than humans! While the use of echolocation can be handy in certain circumstances, some bats actually prefer using their vision when hunting. Every species has uniquely evolved to their own environment, meaning they each use their sensory processes to their own advantage. Some species of bats that feed off of flowers can even see ultraviolet light.

A bat’s sight and their use of echolocation go hand-in-hand in helping them survive and hunt. While not all bats are equipped with 20/20 vision, many of them can see far better than we humans can, they simply choose to use their echolocation capabilities instead. So, the next time someone calls you “as blind as a bat”, make sure you take that as a compliment!

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