Most people, except for small children who don’t know any better, think that bats are blind. This so-called myth/misunderstanding/downright lie is perpetuated by the popular saying “blind as a bat” as applied to people like my grandmother who can’t see her medicine jar on the kitchen table. Why does she need all those medicines anyway? I only take medicine when I’m sick, and even then it has to be a pretty serious sickness, not some measly “flu-like illness.” Anyway, the bats. People think they’re blind. But scientists say they’re not blind, they just need glasses.
We talked to several scientists who told us exactly that. Biologist Marian Svetsky, Ph.D., who is in fact a marine biologist, not just any biologist, explained that “bats are born a little hard of seeing, just like fish. So,” she says, “they kind of bumble around a bit in the beginning, but that’s OK. I mean, chickens do the same thing, and no one ever called them blind. Not that they’re birds, because bats have fur, not feathers, and plus they’re black. But back to my point. Hard of seeing, they get spectacles from a young age, and they’re mostly fine after that. They fly pretty fast, yet I’ve never seen a bat-bat collision in all my years studying marine biology. On the other hand, we humans crash our cars everyday.” And she’s right, at least some of us do.
Physicist Anthony Thomas Riordan, Ph.D., said of vampire bats, “They get a really bad rap. I mean, light is a little-understood phenomenon of wave-like particles, or particle-like waves, or something like that. But just because vampires like the darkness doesn’t mean they can’t see; they’re just afraid of the light, because, you know, they’re evil. Also, some really smart people wear glasses, too.” One example of a smart person with eyeglasses is Vim Vocifero, and in second or third place you have people like Albert Einstein, who at least sometimes wears them in photographs.
Chemist Daniel O’Druiden, Ph.D., from Kildare, spoke about the problem of fruit bats, which he likes to call “banana bats,” because bananas are his favourite fruit. “The problem with banana bats, or fruit bats if you will, is there are so many species. According to Wikisomethingorother, it’s 197 species. I think that’s an underestimate, since new species are discovered in people’s attics every day, especially when you grow fruit in your attic. So, blind or not, they get crowded when they’re flying out of a cavern—or your attic—in a giant swarm, and obviously they can’t see all that far in front of them.”
Materials scientist Simon Elliot, Ph.D., tends to focus on the older bat population. “They wear glasses, of course,” he told reporters. “But most of them are reading glasses, and the other half are just near-sighted. It’s not a crime to be near-sighted. It just means you have to look a little closer to see the obvious. I mean, we don’t blame the president when we get a bad haircut, we just replace it with a toupée and get on with life. So don’t blame the bats, either.”
There you have it. Scientists confirm that bats are not blind, they just wear glasses. And some even look cool in glasses. That is, if you like glasses.
“New Horizons 2018,” U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dustin Mullen. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bat_research_emerging_diseases.jpg.