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Bat

Chris Thorn

Download this image from Wellcome Collection.

X-ray projection of a brown long-eared bat hunted and killed by a domestic cat. The brown long-eared bat has relatively large ears and is common in the UK and across Europe. These bats are nocturnal, sleeping during the day in roosts, and hibernate from October/November to March/April. They tend to fly at low altitude close to vegetation where they hunt their prey - insects taken directly from leaves or the ground. Some bats carry diseases, such as the virus that causes rabies, that can be passed to humans if saliva from an infected animal enters the body, for example through a bite or scratch. The rabies virus travels up the nerves and infects the brain and central nervous system. This is almost always fatal unless treated quickly. The actual height of the bat is approximately 5 cm.

What did the judges like about this image?

Adam Rutherford, science writer and broadcaster, said: "My love of the X-ray bat is more visceral and prosaic. It shows the drama of flight and the delicacy of the gossamer-tight wings. But it's also a classic 'Hammer Horror' pose, and almost identical to the cover of a Gothic book of ghost stories I adored as a child."

How was this image created?

Its creator, Chris Thorn, explained: "The X-ray image was made using minimal kV exposure [low-energy X-rays] with a micro-focus system [to produce a high-resolution image]. Exposure parameters were deliberately controlled to allow the complete natural form to be imaged, and to suppress invasive examination of the torso and cranial region. The choice of photo paper and processing chemistry were selected to emphasise these characteristics. I hope my affinity with this magnificent creature is shared with the viewers, and that his sad demise might result in some greater appreciation of his kind. I just love those ears."