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Understanding how form and function in animals are related, using the case of echolocation and wing shape in bats.

Professor Stuart Parsons describes how the structure of an animal is related to its function using echolocation and wing shape in bats as his example.

Form refers to the structure of an animal, while function refers to how the animal uses the structure. For example, a bird’s short, stout beak is often used to feed on nuts. A beak that is long and thin may be used to search for food in the mud of an intertidal mud flat. Form reflects function. In this video we will explore the form and function of echolocation and flight in some of the most amazing animals on Earth: bats.

Bats are the only mammal capable of true flight. They are also one of only a few species that are able to echolocate to navigate and find their food. So how are these two seemingly unrelated abilities linked? We will explore how the echolocation calls that bats produce are linked to the habitat that they live and hunt in. Bats that fly in the open face different challenges to those that fly in and amongst bushes, and the calls they produce reflect this. In the same way, the structure of a bats wing is related to the habitat they are able to fly in. Long, thin wings allow for fast, long-distance flight but at the cost of manoeuvrability. Short broad wings allow for slow, manoeuvrable flight. Form reflects function.

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