BATSWITH ALMOST 1,000 species, bats are the second largest order of mammals after the rodents. They are the only mammals that can truly fly. The name given to their order is Chiropteran, meaning “hand wings”. When bats are resting, they hang upside-down. Most bats are nocturnal. They eat a variety of food, which they find either by scent and sight, as fruit bats do, or by using sound waves, a process called echolocation, as insect-eating bats do.
Types of batBats are divided into two groups. These are the Mega bats, which are the old world fruit bats, and the Micro bats, sometimes called insect-eating bats.
Mega bats : Fruit bats, or mega bats, are also foxes. sometimes called flying foxes. They live in the tropical and subtropical parts of Africa, Asia, and Australasia. Most mega bats eat fruit, but some also feed on flowers, nectar, and pollen.
Micro bats : The term insect-eating bats is a misleading name for these bars. Many feed on fruit, meat, fish, pollen, and even blood, as well as insects. Micro bats live in both temperate and tropical regions, but in cooler climates they hibernate or migrate for the winter.
Bat featuresA bat’s wing consists of an elastic membrane of skin that is stretched between the elongated fingers of its front limb, and back to its hind limb. Bats have lightweight bodies and strong, clawed toes with which they cling to a suitable support.
RoostsBats need a variety of places to roost, or rest. At night they rest between bouts of feeding and often settle to eat large prey. During the day, they need somewhere to sleep and Females choose a safe, warm place to give birth.
Cave habitats : In warm climates, caves provide daytime and nursery roosts, where females give birth and look after their young. Bracken Cave in Texas, USA, has the largest colony in the world with up to 20 million bats.
Tree habitats : Microbats often roost in tree holes, such as old woodpecker nests, or cracks caused by storm damage. These Honduran white bats, also called tent bats, build a tent from large leaves.
Hibernation : Bats need to hibernate somewhere cold but where they will be protected from frost, which would kill them. The place where they roost, called a hibernaculum, also has to be damp so that the bats do not dry out. Suitable sites include caves, loft spaces, and tree holes.
Echolocation : To find objects in the dark, a microbat makes bursts of high-frequency sound. The sound bounces off objects, such as a moth, and the bat pinpoints the moth’s position by listening to the returning echoes.
FeedingBats have a wide variety of food sources. Most bats eat insects and can consume huge amount in one night. The smaller bats, such as pipistrelles, catch tiny gnats and mosquitoes. Large bats, such as noctules and serotines, feed on cockchafers and dung beetles. Some bats pounce on prey that is on the ground, and pick insects off leaves. Fruit-eating bats live mostly in the tropics, where they have a year-round supply of food.
Vampire bats : True vampire bats feed on the blood of mammals or birds. Using their razor like incisor teeth, they make a wound on an ear or ankle. As the blood flows, the vampire bat drinks it with a grooved tongue that acts like a drinking straw.
Fishing bats : Some bats use echolocation to detect fish just below the water’s surface. Fishing bats have long legs and they fly along the surface and catch the fish with long, sharp claws.
Meat-eating bats : Many larger microbats catch and eat mice, rats, frogs, and lizards. False vampire bats from Asia and America carry their catch to a suitable perch to devour it, using their thumb and wing membranes to hold the heavy prey.
Fruit bats : These bats squash ripe fruit against ridges on the roof of their mouth. They spit out the rind and large seeds that are difficult to digest. Fruit bats sometimes eat the fruit in the tree where they pick it, but they may carry it to a safe roost to eat.
Nectar feeders : Trees that are pollinated by bats provide the animals with nectar and pollen as a reward for their services. The tongues of nectar-feeding bats have a brush-like tip which the bats use to lap up the nectar and pollen inside the flowers.
Nursery :Like all the mammals, a female bat carries her young inside her womb until she gives birth Usually, only one bat is born as time to minimize the extra weight a pregnant female has to carry in flight. Females gather, often in large numbers, to give birth in a nursery roost.
Largest and smallest : The largest bat is a Malaysian flying fox which can have a wingspan of up to 1.7 m (5.6 ft). The smallest bat is the bumblebee bat, also known as Kitti’s hog-nosed bat. This tiny animal is only about 30 mm (1 in) long and weighs only 2 g (0.07 oz).