Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Bats actively modulate membrane compliance to control camber and reduce drag

Cheney, Jorn; Rehm, Jeremy; Swartz, Sharon; Breuer, Kenny


Jorn Cheney

Jeremy Rehm

Sharon Swartz

Kenny Breuer


Bat wing skin is exceptionally compliant and cambers significantly during flight. Plagiopatagiales proprii, arrays of small muscles embedded in the armwing membrane, are activated during flight and are hypothesized to modulate membrane tension. We examined the function of these muscles using Jamaican fruit bats, Artibeus jamaicensis. When these muscles were paralyzed using botulinum toxin, the bats preferred flight speed decreased and they were unable to fly at very low speeds. Paralysis of the plagiopatagiales also resulted in increased armwing camber consistent with a hypothesized role of modulating aeroelastic interactions. Other compensatory kinematics included increased downstroke angle and increased wingbeat amplitude. These results are consistent with the bats experiencing increased drag and flight power costs associated with the loss of wing-membrane control. Our results indicate that A. jamaicensis likely always employ their wing membrane muscles during sustained flight to control camber and to enhance flight efficiency over a wide flight envelope.


Cheney, J., Rehm, J., Swartz, S., & Breuer, K. (in press). Bats actively modulate membrane compliance to control camber and reduce drag. Journal of Experimental Biology,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 28, 2022
Online Publication Date Jul 14, 2022
Deposit Date Aug 11, 2021
Publicly Available Date Aug 9, 2022
Print ISSN 0022-0949
Publisher The Company of Biologists
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords bats, wing membrane, animal flight, plagiopatagiales, membrane actuation, wing morphing, variable camber, wing membrane muscles
Publisher URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations