Insectivorous bats are well known for their abilities to find and pursue flying insect prey at close range using echolocation, but they also rely heavily on vision. For example, at night bats use vision to orient across landscapes, avoid large obstacles, and locate roosts. Although lacking sharp visual acuity, the eyes of bats evolved to function at very low levels of illumination. Recent evidence based on genetics, immunohistochemistry, and laboratory behavioral trials indicated that many bats can see ultraviolet light (UV), at least at illumination levels similar to or brighter than those before twilight. Despite this growing evidence for potentially widespread UV vision in bats, the prevalence of UV vision among bats remains unknown and has not been studied outside of the laboratory. We used a Y-maze to test whether wild-caught bats could see reflected UV light and whether such UV vision functions at the dim lighting conditions typically experienced by night-flying bats. Seven insectivorous species of bats, representing five genera and three families, showed a statistically significant ‘escape-toward-the-light’ behavior when placed in the Y-maze. Our results provide compelling evidence of widespread dim-light UV vision in bats.
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Vol. 17 • No. 1