Thursday

Flying Fox

Carol and I were leisurely strolling through a beautiful outdoor shopping area in Cairns, Queensland when I smelled fresh tortillas. I had been away from Mexican food for the last 2 weeks, and that's really tough for this Texas boy. I couldn't hardly believe I would find a Mexican food place this deep in Australia, but there was no mistaking the luscious smell of tortillas. So we followed the scent to a quaint little Mexican restaurant where we were seated on the second floor balcony. The sun had just set.

We were savoring some reasonably good enchiladas when I noticed flying shadows in the dimming light. Bats... large bats. They filled the air around us and looked like flying dogs with wings. We were witnessing one of the early evening rituals in southeast Asia and Northern Australia, flying foxes leaving their camps in the trees for a night of foraging. I shot some video which I've posted for you. The only clip I didn't shoot is the last in the video with the fox on the ground.

video

There are 57 species of Flying Foxes, a type of fruit bat. Unlike other bats, they depend on a highly sensitive sense of sight and smell to perceive their environment. They hang upside down in trees during the day, sometimes in large groups called "camps." They sleep during daytime wrapped in their wings. On hot days they cool themselves by circulating air with their wings. (Video)

Long finger bones form the structure for the web of skin making up their wings. At dusk they awake and clumsily take flight. A flying fox must flap its wings until it becomes horizontal to the ground before it can let go and fly away. They can’t take off from the ground as you can see in the video. Once airborne, they find fruit with a very sensitive sense of smell. The Flying Foxes in my video will fly up to 40 miles in search of food. They eat like they sleep: upside down. They use their thumbs and feet to get fruit to their mouths.

Their hips are set 90 degrees different than ours. This means their legs or knees normally point to the side which makes walking very difficult. But since it flies, and its wing skin is attached to its legs, this hip orientation is a great advantage.

Bat bones are thin, flexible, and light. In fact there is little margin for error in their construction. If the wing bones were any more dense they would easily break under the heavier load making it impossible for the animal to fly. Also the wing bones aren’t circular like ours… they're flat. For increased flexibility the wing bones lack the normal amounts of calcium and a few other chemicals. The weight and flight ratio is so precise that one mango in the mouth of a flying fox brings the wing bones almost to the breaking point.

The wing skin is also different than most mammals. Our skin stretches in every direction equally, but a bat's wing skin stretches normally from its body to the wing tip, but is less elastic from the front edge to the rear edge so it can fly. A mammal the size of a small dog engineered for flight. Another amazing system designed by our Creator!

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