People have misinterpreted and linked bat with wizardry or evil spirit or they think bats carry bacteria and cause diseases. This is wrong! They are the utmost beautiful and fascinating creatures on Earth. So, what are bats?
What is a bat?
So, what is a bat? Bats are special mammals with very large webbed wings which enables them to fly. They denote almost 20% of the mammal species globally, making them the second largest among mammals. Scientists assume that the first bat emerged 100 million years ago. Bats in the United Stated are at a greater risk of being endangered due to loss of their habitat and a disease known as “white nose syndrome”. Their population has declined significantly.
Bats are more similar to humans and monkeys rather than rodents. They are mostly black or brown in color but some bats can be in shades of red and orange as well. Bats are warm blooded and have fur on their body. Their wings are composed of 2 narrow layers of skin which expand over their arm, fingers, body and part of the legs. A bat needs about 6 to 8 weeks to develop its wings. Just like human, they have 4 very long fingers and a thumb. By licking and rubbing against each other’s body, bats clean themselves. They spend a lot of time to make themselves clean and tidy. Bats groom themselves regularly which makes their fur soft and fresh.
There are around 1,200 bat species which are generally divided into 2 main categories:
- The less specialized bats (micro-bats): these smaller bats find their diet i.e. the insects by using echolocation. Micro-bats can be found globally. They have just one claw on their thumb.
- The highly specialized bats (mega-bats): these larger, fruit eating bats are found in warm environments. Their huge eyes help them to find their diet in the dark. These bats prefer to live in trees rather than caves or buildings. They have 2 claws, one on index finger and one on thumb. The brain of a mega-bat is well developed as they depend more on their sight and sense of smell than echolocation. Also, they use their nose to smell their food.
The shape of a bat’s head can vary depending on their feeding routine. As fruit bats have to drink fruit nectar or eat fruits, they have an extended nose and a long tongue. Long nosed bats, as the name suggests, have long nose to smell the flowers. Long eared bats have huge ears to hear the fluttering sound of an insect’s wing.
Approximately 70% of the bat species eat insects or fruits whereas others eat fish, carnivores or blood. Some bats drink only the juice of a fruit by squeezing it in their mouths. Vampire bats are those bats that take blood as their food; they do not suck blood rather they lick it up. A bat can eat roughly 1,200 mosquitoes just in an hour and more than 600 million insects in a year.
A fruit- eating bat has great metabolic rate and can digest food within 20 minutes. The ripe fruit which bats eat causes scattering of millions of seeds each year which in return helps almost 95% reforestation of the rainforests. The waste of a bat, called guano, can be used as a fertilizer as it is rich in phosphorus and nitrogen, as a detoxifying waste, improving detergents or generating antibiotics and gasohol.
The conception period of a bat can last between 40 days to 6 months; the larger the bat, the greater the conception time. Breeding takes place mostly in late summer and early autumn. They are the slowest reproducing mammals in the world. Majority of the bats can give birth to only 1 child yearly called a ‘pub’.
Unfortunately, this increases their chance of extinction. When born, the pub weights one fourth of its mother’s weight. They are born without hair and look petite, skinny and pink. Like other mammals, new born bats drink milk from their mothers. A new born bat can’t fly well until they have converted into an independent one; until then they are looked after by their mother. If the pub loses its grasp while hanging, it will die.
Certain female bats can restrict their pregnancy by accumulating male bat’s sperm inside their body or by reducing the development time of embryo inside them. Usually in a bat colony, all the female bats give birth to their offspring at the same time. A bat’s mother can easily identify their babies due to their distinctive odor and voice. The offspring of a bat is taken care by the mother only; male bats do not support in raising up. The lifespan of a bat can be more than 30 years.
Habitat of Bats
You will find bats almost anywhere around the world except for severely cold areas such as Antarctica or Arctic or in some islands. They hibernate or sleep through cold winters. During hibernation, they decrease their metabolic, breathing and heart rate. Also, their body temperature is reduced.
A group of 100 to 1,000 bats is known as ‘colony’. Bats can live alone separately or together in a cave or tree with thousands of other bats. The habitation of bats is known as ‘roost’. They are nocturnal i.e. they wake up during night and sleep at day-time. Bats sleep upside down from trees or the roofs of caves so that they can fly quickly if needed.
Cold weather? Bats fold their wings to keep themselves tepid. This entraps the air touching their body which in return provides immediate insulation. Bats that mostly lived in caves have started to acclimatize to urban life now so that they can live in trees or buildings.
Under the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas, the biggest urban bat colony that exists has nearly 1.5 million bats living there. Red bats which found mostly in North America can survive with body temperatures as low as 23 degrees during their hibernation in winters. The tiny brown bats decrease their heart beat to 20 beats per minute or they can even stop breathing for around 48 minutes at a time when they are hibernating. Bats can hibernate for more than 7 months if not disturbed and left in peace, but if you distract them from time to time during winters their energy reserves decrease and they can be starved to death.
Bats are nocturnal which means that they can see in the dark due to echolocation and are more active during night. They have an exceedingly high level hearing sense; they can hear at a frequency between 20 Hz to 120,000 Hz. For their safety, bats are clever enough as they make sound and hang on for its echo. If there is no echo, they can fly around safe and sound. The echo lets them reveal the distance of the object from them, its size, its speed and even its texture within a second. It can sense things as thin as a human hair. Bats make their ultrasound echolocation signs through their mouth or nostrils.
Movement of Bats
Bats can fly at great speed i.e. up to 60 mph. They are the only mammals proficient of powered flying. Some Mexican bats can travel almost 400 km in one night and can reach a height up to 3,000 meters. Vampire bats can move easily on the ground. Bats are not unsighted and can see well, in fact, some bats can sense ultraviolet light as well.
Size of Bats
The largest bat in the world can be found in South Pacific and it is called “giant golden crowned flying fox”. It has wingspan of almost 6 feet in length. The largest bat colony in the world is in Texas, United States called “the bracken bat cave”; more than 20 million bats live in this cave. On the other hand, the smallest bat in the world lives in Thailand and it is known as “bumble bee bat”. The size of this bat is smaller than a thumbnail and it weighs less than a penny but it can eat around 3,000 insects in one night. Majority of the bats are so small that they can fit in the palm of your hand.
Vampire bats have an anticoagulant in their saliva which can be used to treat cardiac patients. In many countries, scientists are replicating the enzyme found in saliva of vampire bats to treat cardiac conditions and bring an end to the consequences of strokes in humans.
Unique Bat Images
Bats in Countries
- Bats are sign of happiness in China and Japan. In Chinese language “fu” means both good fortune and a bat.
- Bats are linked to magic or used as an ingredient in potions in America and Europe.
- In Guam, fruit bats are a source of food for their people. But their excessive hunting has made them endangered over there.
- In Russia people carry a dead bat with them as they believe it brings happiness and good health.
- People of Southeast Australia link the bats’ life with human life. Thus, if you kill a bat, the human life is reducing.
- Bats that live in homes in Scotland raises the price of that home.
So, now we hope you have developed a better picture of the bats, amazing creatures.