Bats in Flight: the Anatomy, Aerodynamics, and Flight Morphology of Bats

a master's research project


Bats, an often misunderstood and feared animal, are actually hugely beneficial to us and keep our environments healthy and running. Unfortunately, many species are currently threatened or endangered, so promotion and support of bat conservation efforts are more important than ever. One of the many interesting and unique aspects about bats — the fact that they are the only flying mammals with many unique flight adaptations — is often not an accessible topic for the general audience; usually the information can be found only in dense research papers with complex graphs and charts.

The goal of this project was to create a three to five minute animation on bat flight which will convey the basic information needed to understand bat flight (anatomy, aerodynamics, morphology, etc.) in an engaging and explicit way so that the general public can understand these complex concepts. This animation will further educate the public on bats in hopes of decreasing negative perceptions and myth beliefs. With an increase in knowledge, positive perceptions, and interest, hopefully the general public interest in bat conservation will also increase.

Research Committee

Dr. Burton Lim (content supervisor)

Assistant Curator of Mammalogy in the Department of Natural History, Royal Ontario Museum

Dave Mazierski (primary BMC supervisor)

Associate ProfessorBiomedical Communications/Biology, University of Toronto

Marc Dryer (secondary BMC supervisor)

Associate Chair—Undergraduate, Department of Biology/
Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, University of Toronto


Research Proposal

summer 2018

(thanks to colleen tang poy for narrating)

Script and narration

fall 2018


fall 2018


fall 2018



spring 2019

I started this process by hand modeling the bones of the little brown bat, but found that the lack of good references was leading to inaccuracies. I was then given access to a CT scan of a little brown bat, which after bringing into Cinema 4D and deleting everything but the bones I needed, I brought into ZBrush and cleaned, added back detail, and re-positioned from a folded pose into a spread.

ZBRUSH MODELING little brown bat

spring 2019

With the help of the already modeled wing bones and several image references, I made a low detail 3D little brown bat model in Maya. I imported the model into ZBrush, where I sculpted detail and refined the form. The final touch was painting on the appropriate coloring.

maya (bones)

spring 2019

After the bones were finished in ZBrush, I imported them into Maya where I applied materials/textures.

Maya(microscopic hairs)

spring 2019

The microscopic hairs were made using Maya's nHair creator. Using nHair I could make several hairs randomly across the surface (which was created by importing a Digital Elevation Map and using the soft manipulation tool) that reacted to physics such as gravity and wind. I had some room for artistic license in regards to color and textures, so I went with a high level of sub-surfacing scattering and a velvet like material in warm oranges to stand out against the darker, purple background.

Maya(little brown bat)

spring & summer 2019

Now it was time to get the bat flying! After importing the model, displacement maps, and color maps into Maya from ZBrush, I started to rig the model for movement. This was done by adding the appropriate joints, painting weights, and finally key-framing the flight pattern. Video resources, especially Sharon Swartz's research website , were used to accomplish animating the flight movement, alongside feedback from Dr. Lim.