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From Nose-Tubes to Lactating Dads: 10 of the Weirdest Facts about Bats

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From Nose-Tubes to Lactating Dads: 10 of the Weirdest Facts about Bats

Published on June 14, 2016


10 bat Facts 1
Male Dyak’s fruit bats (Dyacopterus spadiceu)
Photo: Ch'ien Lee

With over 1300 species of bats around the world, you just know their has to be some weird and wonderful creatures out there. Check out these 10 amazing facts about bats!

1. Daddy’s got milk!

Male Dyak’s fruit bats, Dyacopterus spadiceus, are able to feed their young milk from their own mammary glands. This species has one of the only known natural occurrences of paternal lactation. While the reasons the male would lactate are currently unknown, it could be a mechanism to take some of the pressure of lactation off of the female. This may confer an evolutionary advantage in lactating males over other non-lactating males. Another possible explanation is the consumption of plants with high concentrations of phytoestrogens, a hormone like molecule that may cause mammogenesis and lactogenesis in males.

 

2. All bats have belly buttons

Bats are the second largest group of mammals in the world with more than 1330 species. All mammals, with a few exceptions like monotremes (mammals that lay eggs, like the platypus), get their bellybuttons the same way we do — from their moms’ umbilical cords.

 

10 Bat Facts 7
Tube-nosed bat (Nyctimene sp) Photo: Piotr Nasrecki

 3. Some bats have long tubes for noses

Tube-nosed bats are some of the strangest looking bats you might find, but in a weird way they are also some of the most endearing! The Queensland or Eastern tube-nosed bat, Nyctimene robinsoni as its name suggests, has long tubular nostrils. Scientists are not really sure why these tubes evolved.

 

 

4. I’ll get pregnant when I want!

Mating is a difficult thing, first you need to find a partner and then have the resources to raise the subsequent young. But what if these two important factors don’t align? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to delay fertilization until conditions are just right? The females of some bat species are able to do just that. After mating in the fall, the females of many bat species are able to store the sperm in their reproductive tract until spring, allowing ovulation and fertilization to take place when food is more readily available.

 

10 Bat Facts 2
Mom Lasiurus borealis bat Photo: MerlinTuttle.org

5. Baby bats are HEAVY!!

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! Could you imagine having twins or more (which some bat species do)!

 

 

H monstrosus M head
Male Hammer-headed bats have an enlarged rostrum, larynx and lips,
while females look similar to other fruit bats. Credit: Jacob Fahr

 

6. Some bats honk!

Male hammer-headed fruit bats, Hypsignathus monstrsus, produce large honking calls to attract females during mating season. The males have a large head with an enlarged rostum, larynx and lips that allows them to make these weird calls. Click here to here the call - http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/136292

 

 

10 Bat Facts 8
Wrinkle-faced bat (Centurio senex)
Photo: Jose Martinez

7. Wrinkled faces may help bats hear

The strangely intricate wrinkles and grooves around the nostrils of many bats may help them "see" in the dark by enabling them to use their sonar in different ways. Bats are famous for their ability navigate and hunt by listening to the echoes of their ultrasonic calls. This is known as echolocation. Some bats often have bizarrely elaborate faces, with intricately shaped flaps called “noseleaves" around their nostrils or intricate facial wrinkles and grooves. Scientists have discovered that these facial features may enable the bats to shape and focus their high-pitch in different ways. The ability to make different echolocation calls may explain how they can use echolocation to perform several sonar tasks at once, such as looking for prey and avoiding obstacles.

 

 

 

8. Leave the Sunscreen at home

10 Bat Facts 5
Honduran white bat (Ectophylla alba) Photo: Merlin Tuttle.org

With the bright tropical sun shining some bats have had to develop their own ways of avoiding a sunburn. Despite their white fluffy exteriors the Honduran white bat, Ectophylla alba, has evolved to have a special band of dark pigmented tissue on top of their heads that protects them from harsh solar radiation. This band is colored by melanin, the same pigment that colors human skin and hair.

 

 

 

10 Bat Facts 6
Spix’s disk-winged bat (Thyroptera tricolor)
Photo: MerlinTuttle.org

 

9. A Sticky Situation

Some species of fruit bat don’t have the thumbs that other bats have on their wings. Instead species like the Spix’s disk-winged bat (Thyroptera tricolor) have evolved suction cups that let them cling to and climb up smooth surfaces. With these suction cups on their wings and ankles the bats are able to cling to the inside of smooth leaves where they can hide while they sleep. Since they don’t have to hang by their toes they are the only bats that sleep right side up.

 

 

10. Living Life to the Fullest

Unlike most small animals, which have typically have short lifespans, bats can live for decades. By measuring the epiphyseal gap between bones in the wing of scientists are able to accurately estimate the age of a bat and have found some amazing results. Using this scientist have discovered that the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) can live to be as old as 34 and that one member of the long lived Brandt's bat (Myotis brandtii) was found living in the wild at the ripe old age of 41!

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