While Michael Phelps can probably rest easy knowing his reign is secure, it has come to our attention that bats are bizarrely capable swimmers. 

The short clip comes our way from Chandigarh, India, and although we've seen a few winged animals swim before, we can honestly say this one took us by surprise. The creatures of the night aren't exactly celebrated for their aquatic prowess, but we have to give it to them – those are some impressive moves.  

According to the Smithsonian Musuem, bats are capable of swimming in stressful situations if the need arises, but it's certainly not part of their usual behaviour. Some species, however, such as those belonging to the genus Pteropus (also known as megabats or flying foxes), have actually been known to brave the water in order to secure a meal.

"Flying foxes, often island inhabitants, may have to fly long distances to obtain food," the museum explains. "A forced landing or a foray over water to collect fruit which has dropped and floated there may necessitate an unexpected swim."

While we don't know how the bat in these videos ended up in the water, it's possible that the winged mammal was simply trying to have a drink and miscalculated its approach. Bats drink water on the wing; echolocation helps them track down a dam or river (or even a swimming pool), and they swoop down and skim the water's surface for some liquid refreshment.

Occasionally, this manoeuvre goes awry and the bats end up colliding with an obstacle of some sort, forcing them to take an involuntary dip. The obstruction is often a swimming pool wall – a hazard that prompted Bat Center director Joy O’Keefe to conduct surveys across the US to better understand how many bats drown in pools each year, and what can be done to protect them. 

"Bats are drinking from swimming pools all over the country," O’Keefe told Inside Science. "And some simply drown there ... It's likely that they can't pull up fast enough or have a long enough runway and crash into a wall."

According to the video description, this footage was captured in the Rock Garden of Chandigarh – a tourist attraction in India that consists of artificial waterfalls and sculptures. Our best guess is that the bat collided with the side of a rock pool and was forced to swim to safety. Let's hope the little swimmer made it back up into the air where it belongs.


Top header image: Ann Froschauer/USFWS, Flickr