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How do all bats exit caves?

Read on to learn about bat cave behavior.

Bats, though reputed to only exit caves by flying to the left, actually use an internal sonar system to detect the direction where there is the most space. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Bats, though reputed to only exit caves by flying to the left, actually use an internal sonar system to detect the direction where there is the most space.

A common myth is that bats always turn left when exiting caves. This is one of those fun "facts" that shows up in trivia books Web sites, but nobody seems to be certain where this batty story got started. Nothing in the literature of chiropterology (the study of bats) seems to verify it.

Instead, it would appear that bats turn in whichever direction provides the most open space. Bats use a sophisticated sonar system that enables them to navigate their way in the dark. This system, known as echolocation, entails emitting high-pitched sounds and listening to the echo to determine the size, shape and location of objects in the vicinity.

Whether bats turn left, right, up or down, they are still one of the most interesting mammals in the animal kingdom. Bats are the only mammals that can fly, and with over 1,100 species, make up nearly a quarter of the world's mammals. They have a voracious appetite, with some bats eating up to half of their own body weight on a nightly basis, mostly dining on insects.

Not blood, you ask? Actually, despite their reputation for being blood-suckers, there are only three species of "vampire" bats -- and none of them live in the United States.

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