A new study finds that the muscles in bats’ wings operate at a significantly lower temperature than their bodies, especially during flight. Past research suggests that in most other creatures, including humans, muscles involved in exercise become warmer in response to movement. But the small muscles of a bat’s wing are uniquely vulnerable to heat loss during flight, as they’re covered by only a thin layer of skin — and warming them up would be inefficient from the standpoint of energy use.
“We tend to assume that warm-blooded animals are warm all the time,” said doctoral student Andrea Rummel, who authored the study alongside Brown biologists Sharon Swartz and Richard Marsh. “But this research shows that warm-blooded animals have a lot more variation in body temperature than we expected. That has implications for how animals are moving around, including humans.” Read more.