It’s that time again, the 1st of the month! As we are just saying goodbye to Halloween for another year, we thought we’d go spooky this month and choose bats for Our #AnimalOfTheMonth!
1. There are over 1,300 species of bats!
Bats are the second largest group of mammals. Rodents are the first! Bats live all over the world and range in size from the smallest Kitti’s hog-nosed bat (29 to 33 mm) to the largest Giant golden-crowned flying fox (wingspan: 1.5–1.7 m).
2. Bats are the only mammal able to fly!
While it’s true that other mammal species, like flying squirrels, are able to glide through the air, they don’t actively fly. Bats are the only mammals on earth able to do so. They are different to birds, though, as they don’t have wings. Instead, they have five finger digits connected by a thin membrane. This explains their name Chiroptera, which means ‘hand wing’.
3. Not all bats like blood, but some do!
When we think of bats, vampires often spring to mind, but don’t be afraid. The reality is that of the 1,300+ species, only three actually rely on blood for their survival. Common vampire bats feed on the blood of mammals, while hairy-legged vampire bats and white-winged vampire bats hunt birds. Most species feed on either insects or fruit.
4. Bats cannot take off from the ground
If you have ever wondered why bats sleep upside down, this is why. Unlike birds, bats cannot take off from standing still, and they can’t run to build up speed. That means if they are on the ground, they can’t fly or make a quick getaway. If they hang upside down, however, they can just let go and fall into flight!
5. Bats are fantastic pollinators
Just like bees and our other insect friends, bats are brilliant pollinators, but they rarely get the credit. In fact, over 300 fruits rely on bats for their pollination! This isn’t the only way they help crops, though. Eating 1000s of crop-eating insects a night makes them an important part of pest control, and their droppings, known as guano, are so full of nitrogen and phosphorus that they make amazing fertilizer.
So next time you eat chocolate or pick up a banana or avocado, don’t forget to say thanks to bats for all their hard work!
6. Disease is a bat’s worst enemy
While bats do have natural predators, they don’t have many. Diseases are by far a bigger threat to their survival. When disease strikes, it can wipe out an entire colony in one go and threaten the survival of a species.
7. Bats see with sound and can find food in the dark!
All bats, except fruit bats, use echolocation to find their food! This means they use sound for hunting rather than sight.
How does echolocation work?
First, bats make clicking sounds. These sound waves then bounce off things around them, like trees or insects, making an echo. Bats then wait for the echo to come back to them. The time it takes to come back tells them how far away objects are. They can also work out things like direction, size and texture! Bat echolocation is so effective they can find insects in pitch black with no problem and even detect wires the width of a human hair!
8. Bats form maternity colonies
When it is time for baby bats, known as pups, to be born, females all come together in a maternity colony and help each other to raise their young. They usually give birth to one baby at a time and feed their young on milk, as we do, until they are old enough to fend for themselves. Once the pups have left the colony, it breaks up until the next breeding season.
What’s your favourite bat fact? Let us know in the comments!