Researchers from Brown University used an innovative3D imaging technology called XROMM (X-ray reconstruction of moving morphology) to visualize the rapid internal skeletal movement of short tailed fruitbats, which shows that the bats are able to take flight using recycled energy.
This technology combines3D models of bone morphology with movement data extracted from biplanar x-ray video to create reanimations of the 3D bones moving in space, according to XROMM. The data for the bone morphology comes from a 3D computer model of the bone surfaces from laser scanning, CT, or MRI.
By examining the reanimations of the rapid internal skeletal movement, researchers were able to determine that bats are using recycled energy when in flight.
"Energy is stored in the triceps tendon, which is used to power elbow extension – in essence, elbow extension happens using "recycled" energy,” said Dr. Nicolai Konow, Brown University, who led the research. “State of knowledge, and our results, indicates that bats are unique among small mammals in stretching their tendons, as small mammal limb tendons are thought to be too thick and stiff to be stretched."
In addition to XROMM, the researchers also used a method called fluoromicrometry, where small radio opaque markers are implanted directly into the muscle of the bats, which allows the researchers to measure length change during contractions.
By combining the information obtained from the XROMM and through fluoromicrometry, the researchers found that the “biceps and triceps tendons of small fruitbats are stretched and store energy as the bat launches from the ground and flies vertically.”
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