Research and Further Reading

Value of Bats in Pest Control

  • Research Proves Bats Help Control Insect Pests - TPWD media release
  • Bat-o-nomics | June 2005 | TPW magazine
    ... In a new study, scientists hope to quantify the value of bats in Texas. ... “Watching bats emerge is like watching flames of a fire — it’s mesmerizing.”....
  • Bat Patrol | National Geographic
    Radar follows bats in Texas as they gorge on crop pests.


  • What it's like being a bat: getting a 3D map from echolocation. National Science Foundation. Article and video interview with their researcher. Great explanation on echolocation, video also linked on student page.
  • The Boy Who Echolocates. Fascinating look at 14 year-old Ben Underwood, blind since a toddler, who has learned to "see" using his own version of echolocation. The CBS news version is linked on the student page. The Extraordinary People version has more detail and additional learning opportunities such as testing a hypothesis and social/emotional topics on learning to cope. May be more suitable for older students. Part two is linked on the student page since it talks about sonar and shows how researchers formed a hypothesis and conducted an experiment on his skill.
    CBS News video or read the article.  
  • Extraordinary People (10 minute segments)
    part one -- introduction, note, it shows him putting in his eyes
    part two -- how people use echolocation, for example sonar 
    part three -- scientific testing of his skills; mental mapping of new places 
    part four -- coping and being outdoors; learning a lesson                                                                                                                                      part five -- resisting, tough lesson; outdoor trip
  • Hidden Giants | July 2008 | TPW magazine
    ... diving wasn't enough, sperm whales later evolved sophisticated built-in sonar to locate large squid in the night-black depths, much like bats evolved sonar....

Engineers studying the aerodynamics and maneuverability of bats

  • Bat flying in a wind tunnel video  
  • How Bats Fly, UC Berkeley  
  • Understanding Bat Flight for Engineering, research funded by the U.S. Air Force and the National Science Foundation. "So one of the interests from an engineering perspective is how can we use nature's examples, in particular bats' examples, as the opportunity to fly in a maneuverable way," according to Brown University engineering professor Kenny Breuer. Read more and see fascinating video clips.
  • International research on bat flight. According to Geoffrey Spedding, an aerospace engineer from the University of Southern California (USC), who collaborated on the research, "Bats are agile hunters, capable of plotting and executing complex maneuvers through cluttered environments," he said. "These are the traits we'd like our unmanned air vehicles to have because there are so many complex rural and urban environments in which we could use them."

Uses of Guano

  • Guano Gathering | January 2007 | TPW magazine
    Mexican free-tailed bats — 20 to 40 million of them — whirl out from the mouth of the cave for their nightly insect feast.
  • Winging it in Uvalde | September 2003 | TPW magazine
    At the cave's mouth are the remains of a Civil War-era furnace used to convert bat guano into saltpeter to make gunpowder for the Confederacy. During World War II, a plan – approved by President Roosevelt and code-named "Project X-Ray" – was concocted to collect bats from this and three other Texas caves. The bats were to be fitted with tiny incendiary devices and dropped in droves over Japan. Supposedly, they would roost in the mainly wood and fiber buildings and set off countless fires. The bat bomb project was scrapped for the atomic bomb.
  • A Cave with a Past | December 2004 | TPW magazine
    History records that Confederate troops during the Civil War made gunpowder from guano left behind by the millions of Mexican free-tailed bats.


¡Hasta La Vista, Murceélagos! | October 2003 | TPW magazine
Texas is home to 32 of the 45 bat species found in the United States, but by far the most numerous are Mexican free-tailed bats, Tadarida brasiliensis.

Bats and Humans

Bat Rehab | August 2007 | TPW magazine
Like barely perceptible phantoms, fruit bats flit past Amanda Lollar in the twilight of the bat cave she has created inside a former furniture store.

Bright Nights | June 2006 | TPW magazine
Effects of lights on bats....All 986 species of bats in the world are nocturnal, equipped to do best in low light. Populations in rural areas like Devil's Sinkhole.

Room to Roam | November 2006 | TPW magazine
Large mammals are well represented — mountain lion, coyote, black bear, bobcat and a host of smaller mammals, as well as 20 species of bats.

Rocksprings Goes Batty | August 2005 | TPW magazine
Sunday evenings to take the 20-minute trip on a new, air-conditioned bus to Devil’s Sinkhole to watch the spectacular emergence of several million bats.

Houston's Bat Bridge | May 2006 | TPW magazine
Standing atop the Waugh Drive bridge at Allen Parkway, a group gathers to hear TPWD urban biologist Diana Foss talk about Houston’s bats.

Summer Solstice and Solace | March 2004 | TPW magazine
Not as large a maternal colony as Bracken or Frio River caves, the Eckert James River Bat Cave is home to 2 million female Mexican free-tailed bats.