Bats are unique animals as these are perhaps the only mammals which can really fly and not glide. These are gruesome creatures which are closely related to mice and are often called ‘flying mice’. Bats are supposed to be blind, but they are not. Although short sighted, but these creatures have sonar sensors, accurate to millimetres. What many people seldom know is that these creatures are harmless to humans and most other domesticated animals. Also, these are not pests like, mice and rabbits; in fact these mammals feed on insects like, mosquitoes and moths. There are a number of myths and folklores which project bats as evil animals, but quite opposite to these myths, bats are useful animals. Bram Stoker in his popular novella Dracula related these innocent creatures to the blood sucking freak, Dracula. To know the bats beyond these myths read on.
Scientific Name: Chiroptera
Superorder: Laurasiatheria / Archonta (debated)
Suborder: Mega-chiroptera & Micro-chiroptera
Family: 18 families
Genus: 180 genera
Species: around 1100
Wingspan: 16 cm to 2 m (depending upon the species)
Weight: 14 gm to 1.5 kg (depending upon the species)
Smallest Species: Bumblebee Bat of Thailand
Diet: fruits, nectar, pollen or insects, small mammals and fish
Natural Habitat: throughout the world, except for extreme arctic and desert regions
Lifespan: up to 20 years
Age of Maturity: 6 months to 2 years (depending upon the species)
Gestation Period: 1.5 to 9 months (depending upon the species)
Number of Offspring: one
Fun Facts About Bats
- There are around 4,500 types of known mammals which dwell on the face of earth including 1,000 species of bats.
- Bats are omnivores, but the diet of one kind may differ from the other; like, the British bats only eat insects, but the bats found in tropical countries consume many other edibles; such as, fruits, flowers, frogs, fishes, and at times bats of different species.
- Bats never reside in homes made by their own; instead they rest in places like, roofs, holes and cracks in trees, walls, and buildings to avoid light.
- During winters, when the food is scarce and there are not many insects around them, bats go in a hibernation phase. For this purpose, these mammals choose places which have moisture and where the daylight can not reach like, inside buildings, caves, and hollow trees. During hibernation their heartbeat drops down to as low as two beats per minute and they survive using the brown coloured fat, which they accumulated during summers.
- Bats give birth to the largest babies in mammals as at the time of birth a bat baby can weigh around one fourth of the total size of the mother bat. But this is with an exception that a bat can give birth to only one baby per year.
- Interestingly, Britain has taken a number of steps to save the population of bats in the country. In Britain it is illegal and a punishable crime to kill a bat or to disturb the places where these roost.
- The bats belong to the Chiroptera order which means that these animals can develop their hands into large wing spans. The structure of the wings of a bat is similar to the hand bones of a human. It comprises of four fingers and its skin is stretched in between these bones, whereas the thumb is remarkably smaller and has a sharp bent nail on it. This nail is very useful as it is used while crawling, grooming, and holding onto food.
- Most of the species of bats prefer living in the tropical regions of the world as these places have humid and warm climate.
- The biggest species of bats are the mega-bats, which have found their habitat in the tropical forests of the old world countries like, Australia, Asia, and Africa. Because of their big size these are also called flying foxes. These bats are featured according to their size, large eyes, small ears, large bodies, and a dog-like face. These are herbivores and eat flowers, fruits, or nectar from trees.
- Bats generally live in large colonies and are social animals. These colonies prefer living in large dead trees with hollow trunks, damp caves, rock crevices, etc. But some of the species of these bats are solitary and prefer to live alone and hunt for themselves.
- The biggest bat in the world is the Malayan flying fox found in Asia. The weight of this large mammal is about 2 pounds and it has a wingspan of about 6 feet. This bat is herbivores and consumes fruits only.
- World’s smallest species of bat is the Kitty’s hog-nosed bat, also known as the bumblebee bat. This tiny specie of bat is found in the inner most jungles of Thailand and can weigh as low as two grams and the wingspan of this specie is merely 6 inches.
- Most North American bats are insectivores and prefer dwelling during evenings and night. You will be amazed to know that a bat on an average consumes anything from 2,000 to 6,000 insects each night.
- The most dreaded species of bat is the vampire bat; these are the species which suck blood of other animals. These are mostly found in Southern Mexico, Central America, and South America. These bats have a special anticoagulant in their saliva which keeps the blood from clotting and keeps the flow intact.
- Vampire bats usually drink a tablespoon of blood per feeding. This specie of bats is highly social and is known to take care of the elderly and sick bats of the group.
- Bats are primitive creatures, this can be proved from the fact that the oldest bat’s fossils date back to as old as 52 million years.
- As compared to their size, these creatures live a long life. Their age span can be anything from ten to twenty years depending upon their species. Some species can live as long as thirty years too. The oldest known bat was recently recaptured in Europe at 41 years old.
- As these are warm blooded animals, they can migrate to warmer climates during winter and many of them hibernate. Hibernation saves them from freezing temperatures. Interestingly a bat’s heart beats as fast as 1000 beats per minute during a flight.
- The pelvic muscles of bats are very weak and this is the reason that a bat can not stand straight on a ground, but these have a really good grip and hang themselves upside down for sleeping. The blood doesn’t rush to their brain because of the small size and moreover, gravity doesn’t work on them like humans.