One of the most notorious creatures of the Halloween Season is The BAT. Partially due to the Dracula story, and the current popularity of all things Vampire – these furry mammals have gotten the worst possible attention. Bats create fear, and today’s post – if you’ll read it – will hopefully help you get over it!
Bats are the only flying mammal. A bat’s wing is formed of fine double-layered skin stretched between the greatly lengthened fingers and forearms. Like all mammals (including humans) bats are warm-blooded, give birth to live young, supply their young with milk, and have hair.
970 different species of bats have been identified around the world. Bats fall into two catagories: those which are fruit-eaters (170 species) and those which are smaller, insect-eating bats (800 species).
Bats navigate by beaming blips of ultrasound at their surroundings. (Human ears cannot detect these sounds.) The facial features and large ears of bats focus the echoes of these ultrasounds that have been deflected from their surrounds and returned to the bat. The echoes tell the bat the precise shape and distance of nearby objects. Each species has its own distinctive ultrasonic call.
Fruit bats have large, flat crowned grinding teeth and strong jaws. They have long snouts and a facial structure much like a squirrel or a small dog. These bats live in tropical areas where fruit grows year-round.
Insect -eating bats find their food by using their ultrasound. They can hunt insects in total darkness. Typical North American bats are insect-eaters. They are nocturnal, hunting for food at night. Often, they leave their homes in caves, barns and bushes at dusk, and return to them as the sun is coming up. Their faces are much different from fruit bats, with smashed in noses which give them a grotesque appearance.
Vampire bats do exist – but are only one of the 900 species of bats in the world. They are found in Central and South America. Tese bats have razor-sharp teeth which they use to break the skin of sleeping cattle to suck their blood.
Bat homes: Caves are frequently thought of as home to bats, and these animals do prefer the dark, dry caverns throughout the world. Millions of bats make their homes in some of the largest caves. Other bats may roost in barns, attics, lofts, trees and bushes.
Insect-eating bats hibernate. Their food source (insects) disappears during the cold months of the year, so they retreat to caves and other dark areas in large groups, where the closeness of thousands of other bats keeps them warm.
Many bats hibernate in maternity colonies. Their young are born during this hibernation phase.
Endangered bats – many species of bats are endangered, primarily because the caves they use to hibernate have been disturbed. When bats are awakened from hibernation too early, they leave the caves and are unable to find food.
One source for the above information was 365 Days of Nature and Discovery: Things to Do and Learn for the Whole Family, by Jane Reynolds, Phil Gates and Gaden Robinson. Harry Abrams, Inc., NY:NY. 1994.