Interesting Facts About Bats: Awesome Creatures of the Night
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Bats are one of the most misunderstood animals in our world, with bats being seen as evil creatures and carriers of disease. This is not true. Bat facts: bats are amazing animals that play an important role in many ecosystems around the world. Here are some facts about bats which will hopefully change your mind!
Interesting Bat Facts
Contrary to what you might’ve seen in horror movies, bats are shy, gentle, and intelligent.
How and Where Bats Live
A group of bats is called a colony or a camp. Most bats live together in colonies and roost in caves, dead trees, buildings, bat houses, rock crevices, and the underside of bridges. Some other bats are solitary, mainly living in trees.
Bats are found in most parts of the world, with the exception of polar (extremely cold) regions. Bats can live pretty much wherever there is a food and water source.
Bat facts: Bat Anatomy
Bats flap their wings using their chest muscles, which are attached to a bone called a keel. There are many unique facts about bats and their anatomy.
Bats forelimbs have elongated bones, particularly the metacarpals and phalanges. Some bats have also developed an extra bone on their hind limbs, near the ankle. This extra bone is called the calcar, and it supports the uropatagium or the flap of skin that extends between the back legs and tail.
Fun bat fact: Bats’ legs are rotated 180 degrees, which means their knees flex in the opposite direction that a human’s do.
Bat wings are like human hands.
Unlike bird’s wings, the structure of a bat’s wings is similar to those of human hands. Their wings allow them to do much more than just fly. Bat’s wings also help them stay warm while roosting.
Fun bat fact: The wing membrane of a bat is about as thin as two pieces of regular printer paper (but if you stacked 100 sheets, they would still only make half an inch)!
How high can bats fly? Some bats have been seen flying 3,000 feet above the ground! Other bats have been found to fly over 50 miles per hour. That’s fast!
It’s no surprise that bats spend a lot of time hanging upside down, but did you know bats also have the ability to manage their body temperature and keep themselves warm? They do this by using special grooves in their wing membranes called “blood vessels” or “heat pipes” which contain an erythrocyte protein called hemoglobin. When bats are cold, this “blood” moves to the wing membranes and acts as a natural insulator against heat loss.
Bat facts: Bat Eyesight
Though we often use the phrase “blind as a bat”, bats can see almost as well as humans can! They also have an extremely keen sense of smell. Bats mostly rely on echolocation rather than their eyes, as they’re nocturnal, meaning they sleep during the day and are awake at night.
Most bats use echolocation, a natural sonar for locating prey and other objects, with the exception of various species of flying foxes (megabats). More about those later!
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How long does it take bats to learn how to use echolocation?
Bats are born ready to use echolocation. They emit a high-frequency sound, known as sonar or echoes, which bounce off objects in their environment and allow them to know the world around them!
You can learn more about bat’s eyesight from Phys.org.
Fun bat fact: Some bats sleep with one eye open.
How many teeth does a bat have?
The number of teeth a bat has depends on which species you’re looking at. Bats have between 20 and 38 teeth, with the shape of their teeth varying according to what they eat.
The vampire bats have about 28 tiny, needle-sharp teeth in their mouth while the fruit-eating bats typically only have 20. Some bats do not have any teeth at all!
Bat facts: Bat Noses
Bat noses are not just for show. They have a unique “leaf-shaped” nose that helps bats detect and identify objects in the environment.
What smells do bats hate?
When bats live near humans, they can be bothered by many of the same smells that bother us. The smell of rotten food and spoiled milk are especially offensive to bats.
Bats are the only flying mammals.
What about flying squirrels and flying lemurs, you say? Those two don’t have wings, so they can only glide, while bats actually fly. Bats are in their own, unique scientific order called Chiroptera, meaning “hand-wing”.
The bat’s structure is similar to that of a human hand. Bats use their thumbs for crawling, grooming, and holding onto food.
Bats’ wings are thin, giving them what is called “airfoil.” Propulsion is what powers bats forward.
When they’re awake and flying, their hearts pump over 1,000 beats per minute! However, when bats hibernate, their hearts pump only about 11 beats per minute.
Bat facts: How fast do bats fly?
Bats are very agile creatures that have been seen flying at speeds up to 25 miles per hour!
There are many bat species.
There are more than 1,200 different kinds of bats in the world! This makes up about 1/5 of all mammal species.
50 species of bats live in the United States and Canada, which make up 3% of the world’s bats species.
Types of Bats
There are two suborders of bats: Megachiroptera (megabats) and Microchiroptera (microbats).
Difference between Microbats and Megabats
|found all over the world||found in specific tropical areas|
|small eyes||large eyes|
|large ears (most species)||small ears|
|small nose||long nose|
|small bodies||large bodies (usually)|
|eat insects||eat fruit and drink nectar|
|use sonar||do not use sonar|
|do not see in color||see in color|
Bat facts: Vampire Bats
Vampire Bats make up only 3 of the 1,200+ species of bats and are mostly located in Latin America.
They are very small (about the size of a package of M&Ms) and, if you’re wondering, Vampire Bats do not attack humans. They prefer to consume blood – lapping it up, not sucking it – from cows, goats, and chickens, in teaspoon- to tablespoon-sized amounts.
Fun bat fact: An anti-clotting agent in Vampire Bats’ saliva keeps the blood flowing as long as they are licking. Scientists are working on copying the enzymes found in their saliva to treat heart conditions and stop the effects of strokes in humans.
Bat facts: Fruit Bats
Fruit bats are found in Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Fruit bats are also known as flying foxes. There are four fruit bat species on mainland Australia: little red, black, spectacled, and grey-headed.
Not all fruit bats are large. In fact, some are less than 2-inches in length. However, others can be up to 16 inches in length. They vary in weight from a few ounces to a few pounds. The wingspan of a fruit bat can be more than five feet!
Fruit bats bring us over 450 commercial products and 80 medicines through pollination and seed dispersal.
Fun bat fact: More than 95% of rainforest regrowth comes from seeds that have been spread by fruit bats!
What is the smallest species of bat?
The world’s smallest bat, the Bumblebee Bat, is found in Thailand. This bat is also referred to as Kitti’s hog-nosed bat. Weighing in at around 2 grams with a wingspan of 6 inches, it is the smallest mammal in the world.
Bumblebee Bats have very strong legs and claws, despite their tiny size. Experts have long wondered how this tiny bat is able to fly, but they have extra webbing between their hind legs that helps them have control over their movement while in flight.
The largest Bumblebee Bat colonies have anywhere from 10 to 500 members, which is smaller than other bat colonies. Bumblebee Bats spread out while roosting, which is different than most other bats as they rely on each other for body heat, but Bumble Bee bats don’t seem to need to.
What is the largest species of bat?
The largest bats are the Flying Fox, found in both Australia and Asia. These bats have wingspans of up to six feet!
Weighing in at up to 3 pounds, the Giant Golden-Crowned Flying Fox is one of the largest bat species in the world.
The largest bat in the world is the Malayan Flying Fox, found in Asia. It weighs up to 3 pounds and has a wingspan of almost 6 feet.
Bat facts: What do bats eat?
70% of bats consume insects and bugs, while fruit bats eat fruit and drink nectar. Vampire Bats are the exception (yes, they do exist!).
Bats have a fast metabolism. They can digest bananas, mangoes, and berries in about 20 minutes!
Brown bats can catch around 1,200 mosquito-size insects in one hour. In Bracken Cave, Texas, it’s estimated that the 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats that live there eat about 200 tons of insects – each night!
What is a bat’s favorite food?
Most bats will eat almost anything that they can find! Some bats are insectivores and some are carnivorous which means they eat other bats!
Mating Habits of Bats
Bats are among the slowest reproducing animals on earth, with most bat species only having one live young per year (some fruit bats have babies twice a year). Female bats start breeding when they are about 15 months old.
Bats exhibit unique mating behaviors we have not seen in other animals. Male and female bats meet at hibernation sites, called hibernacula, where they breed.
The craziest part about bat mating? Mating occurs in late Summer/early Fall, and the females store the males’ sperm until the next Spring. What?!
Bat facts: Gestation for Bats
Pregnant female bats carry for a gestation period of 40 days to 6 months and yes, they give birth upside down. Baby bats are known as pups. Pups weigh about 1/4 as much as its mother does when it is born. Baby bats nurse from their mothers, much like other mammals.
Bat mothers carry their babies out each night to forage. The baby clings to the mother’s underarm nipple with their mouths and hangs onto her waist with their toes. They are carried by their mother for 4-5 weeks until too heavy to carry.
Baby bats are carried by their mothers for 4-5 weeks until they are fully furred. Baby bats begin to fly at when they reach 6-10 weeks of age, and feed independently a few weeks later at about 12 weeks.
Fun bat fact: If a bat is orphaned for whatever reason, in some bat species, the young will be cared for by other female bats.
Bat Life Expectancy
The average bat lives to be over 10 years old, with some living 20 years or more. The oldest bats on record have lived more than 40 years.
Fun bat fact: bats can live up to 30 years!
Bat facts: Predators of Bats
Hawks and owls kill and eat bats; snakes, weasels, and raccoons climb into bat roosts and attack bats while they are sleeping.
Predators of bats include:
How do bats protect themselves?
Many bats protect themselves by roosting in secluded locations and by having strength in numbers. Bats are agile and keenly aware of potential threats; they can even detect the most silent of fliers like the Barn Owl.
Bats are nocturnal with the exception of some giant fruit bats. Fruit bats’ sheer size and numbers give them ample protection against predators.
Honduran white bats chew large leaves to make tents that protect their colonies from predators (like monkeys).
Bat facts: Bats are very clean animals.
Contrary to myth, bats are not rodents, nor are they dirty. They’re meticulously clean creatures and spend time frequently grooming themselves (even behind their ears!). This is why the bat’s fur is so soft and silky.
“But, I thought bats smelled bad?” – This is a common assumption because where there are bats, there is guano (bat poop) and urine. That is where the smell comes from.
How do we know if bats carry rabies?
Bats do not carry rabies, bats can transmit rabies through their saliva and blood if they bite you or other people in your home (i.e., bats could have contracted it from another animal). If a bat comes into contact with someone’s skin, this is also dangerous because bats may have contracted the disease from another animal such as a rodent.
Some bats are endangered.
Over half of the world’s bat species are either in threat or endangered. This is primarily due to pollution, habitat destruction by way of deforestation,
More than 50 percent of bat species in the United States are either in severe decline or are listed as endangered. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Industry, deforestation, pollution, and good old-fashioned killing have wiped out many bats and their habitats. For information on how to help keep bats around, contact your local conservation society.
What is white nose syndrome?
White nose syndrome (WNS) is a mysterious and deadly disease that has killed bats across the northeastern United States. The fungus that causes WNS, Pseudogymnoascus destructans or Pd-Gq, thrives in cold environments but will also survive on rocks and trees outside bat hibernacula during colder months.
The bats that die from WNS are usually the bats found during the summertime. Bats infected with Pd-Gq develop a white fungus on their nose, ears, and wings because they have been hibernating in caves or mines where there is high humidity and temperatures around 40°F.
Is there a cure for white nose syndrome in bats?
Sadly, bats cannot be vaccinated against this fungus. The best we can do is to monitor the spread of WNS and work on reducing humans’ contact with bats when they emerge from hibernation in springtime. Finally, if a person comes into contact with bats or bat droppings it is important to wash their skin right away for at least five minutes with soap and water or to put on protective clothing.
Do bats like rain?
Yes. Bats like rain because it provides them with an opportunity to drink from the pools of water that have formed on leaves and other surfaces.
However, a lot of bats do not need to drink. Some bat species that inhabit desert environments can extract enough water from their food (mostly insects). And bats that live in tropical environments get their water from plants and fruit.
Bat facts: Why do bats hang upside down?
Bats hang upside down because of the way their wings are attached to their body. It’s difficult for bats to take off if they are not hanging upside down.
Why did bats evolve to hang upside down?
A bats’ wings are attached to their thorax (chest area) between the legs. This means bats must hang upside down in order to fly. There is also an oil gland on top of a bat’s head, which secretes oily substances that help them see better at night and keep from running into things while flying!
Why don’t bats fall when they sleep?
When bats are not flying they will often sleep by hanging upside down from their feet. In order to keep themselves attached, bats have a strip of skin on their legs that is thought to secrete some kind of adhesive material or oils.
Can a dead bat still hang?
Yes, bats can still hang upside down after they are dead. Perhaps it is because the muscles that make them fly will continue to work for a while even after death, or maybe bats have some kind of natural adhesive on their feet which helps them cling to surfaces just like spiders do!
How do bats hang in caves?
Bats are able to hang in caves because of the way their wings are attached. They attach themselves with a strip of skin on their legs that is thought to secrete some kind of adhesive material or oils, which helps bats cling to surfaces.
What are bats afraid of?
Bats are afraid of bats.
No bats should be afraid of other bats, right? Wrong! Bats in the wild will attack and kill members from another colony if they cross paths with them outside their roosts or feeding grounds. This is one way that bats keep their populations stable – by regulating themselves through competition for food and space.
Did we miss anything about bats?
We hope not! This is, after all, basically bats 101.
When bats are out and about they live a life full of adventure – which includes flying through dark skies in search of food or other bats to mate with. These creatures can often be found roosting in caves or trees, but bats are also known to occupy structures like attics.
Some bats are endangered. Over half the world’s bat species are either in threat or endangered due to pollution and habitat destruction by way of deforestation. Industry, deforestation, pollution, and good old-fashioned killing have wiped out many bats and their habitats – and bats are disappearing at an alarming rate.
How can you help?
For information on how to help bats in your area, contact your local conservation society. There are many ways you can be a bat hero and one of the most important is informing yourself about bats so that you know what they need and why bats matter.
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