Bats Are:
Bats Are Cool!

Bats Are Cool!


Yuma myotis
A Yuma myotis (Myotis yumanensis) in flight.
Credit: Michael Durham / Minden Pictures

Yes, bats are definitely cool. More than 1,300 bat species worldwide display an amazing diversity as species evolved over at least 60 million years to survive in wildly varied habitats and food chains.

Here's a few other things you might not know about bats of the world:

  • Bats are mammals that belong to the order Chiroptera (from the Greek cheir - "hand" and pteron -"wing”). The forelimbs of bats form webbed wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight.

 

  • Bats are the second largest group of mammals in the world. The largest mammal group is rodents. In many languages, the word for "bat" is similar with the word for "mouse" – for example in German where "Fledermaus" means “flutter” and “mouse”. Bats however are not closely related to mice. In fact on the molecular phylogenetic tree of mammals humans and rodents are more closely related to each other than to bats!

 

  • One genus of bats, Myotis, is more broadly distributed than any other terrestrial mammal genus. Other than Antarctica, bats of this genus can be found on every continent! 

 

hoary bat with twins
A female hoary bat perched with her twin young. Credit: MerlinTuttle.org

 

  • Bats are exceptionally vulnerable to extinction, in part because they are among the slowest reproducing mammals on Earth for their size. Most bat species only give birth to one pup, however some species can give birth to multiples. The hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus) for example regularly has twins.

 

  • Most bats moms give birth to a single pup at a time, for good reason. Baby bats can weigh up to one-third of their mother’s body weight. To put that into perspective, just imagine birthing a 40-pound human infant!

 

  • The largest bat colony in the world roosts in Bracken Cave, Texas where over 15 million Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) emerge from the cave in large columns to feed on surrounding farmland. This cave is a maternity colony, where females of this species migrate from Mexico every year to give birth.

 

  • The Brandt’s myotis (Myotis brandti) of Eurasia is the world’s longest-lived mammal for its size, with a lifespan that sometimes exceeds 38 years.

 

Bumbleebee bat
The bumblebee bat is not only the smallest bat in the world, but also
the smallest mammal in existence! Credit: Yushi Osawa
  • Bats range in size from the tiny Kitti's hog-nosed bat (Craseonycteris thonglongyai) – better known as the bumblebee bat – that weighs less than a penny; to the golden-crowned flying fox (Acerodon jubatus), which weighs 2.6lbs and has a wingspan of up to 5’6”.

 

  • You’ve probably heard of bats being nocturnal..but what about diurnal? The Samoan flying fox (Pteropus samoensis) is the only bat species known to man that forages almost exclusively during the day!

 

  • With 1331 bat species worldwide, the range of habitats and diets of bats is highly varied. Bats are known to eat insects, fruit, nectar, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, small mammals and even other bats. The American false vampire bat (Vampyrum spectrum) for example is a top carnivore and isn’t afraid to chow down on smaller bats, frogs and many birds including doves.

 

False Vampire Bat
The False Vampire Bat (Megaderma lyra) from India hunts mice.
Credit: Stephen Dalton / Minden Pictures
  • Frog-eating bats identify edible from poisonous frogs by listening to the mating calls of the males. Frogs counter by hiding and using short, difficult-to-locate calls.

 

  • The pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus) of western North America is immune to the stings of the scorpions and centipedes on which it feeds.

 

  • Fishing bats have echolocation so sophisticated that they can detect a minnow’s fin, as fine as a human hair, protruding only two millimeters above a pond’s surface. And African heart-nosed bats can hear the footsteps of a beetle walking on sand from more than six feet away.

 

  • The tube-lipped nectar bat (Anoura fistulata) of Ecuador has what is believed to be the longest tongue relative to body length of any mammal. Its tongue is up to 1½ times as long as its body.

 

  • The Honduran white bat (Ectophylla alba), with its yellow nose and ears, roosts in ‘tents’ it builds by nibbling on large leaves until they fold over.

 

  • Since at least 1974, biologists have known that some male bats sing very much as songbirds do, and they warble for the same reasons: to defend territories and to attract mates. Researchers have discovered that the tunes of some bats are even more complex and similar to bird song than first suspected. These bats’ melodies are structured, have multiple syllables, phrases, repeated patterns, and, of course, rhythm. Their songs also have syntax, meaning rules for how the phrases can be combined. But the rules are flexible, and a bat can improvise, singing a song his way. So far, scientists have identified 20 species of bat troubadours around the world.                                                 What's Singing Got to Do with It? - male lesser short-tailed bats (Mystacina tuberculata)                                                                      Don't be afraid to serenade - male hammer-headed bats (Hypsignathus monstrosus)

 

  • Bats are one of the diverse groups of animals on earth. Their faces alone vary from the puppy dog-look of fruit bats and flying foxes, to the compact faces of insect eaters and the long snouts of pollinators that reach deep into flowers for nectar. We think most bats are rather cute and endearing. Check out the video below and see what you think!

 

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