All about Bats  
Discover everything there is to know about your favourite winged mammal! 
Bats are the only flying mammals. Like all mammals, they suckle their young until they are fit and ready to forage for themselves. They have a thin, elastic wing membrane between their fingers and legs that gives them the acrobatic flight capacity. The scientific name for their wings is Chiroptera which translates to ‘hand wing’. Such a ‘hand wing’ allows better maneuverability in flight and thus allows bats to be such remarkable flying mammals. 
 
There are more than 1.000 bat species around the world, who can be found in every continent except Antarctica. 
Lending from their unique wing morphology, bats are classified as either Mega-bats Megachiroptera or Micro-bats Microchiroptera. Mega-bats are tropical and ‘Old World’ bat species from Africa, Asia and Australia. They have large wingspans and bodies just like the Golden-Crowned Flying Fox with a 1.5 meter wingspan and weighing up to 1.2 kilograms. Mega-bats have fox like faces with long noses, large eyes and/or small ears. Micro-bats on the other hand, have smaller wingspan and bodies and can be found worldwide. Unlike Mega-bats, they have diverse and distinct facial features. Differences between the two classification also extends to their diet with Mega-bats primarily feeding on fruit, flowers and nectar and Micro-bats feeding primarily on insects and other broad and other diverse items. 
 
Bats (except most fruit bats) orientate and hunt by means of a highly sophisticated system of echolocation, emitting high-frequency calls that beyond the range of the human ear. Most fruit bats, such as the Grey headed flying-fox, have larger eyes and a sharp sense of smell as they find food by sight and smell.  
 
Echolocation helps bats avoid collisions and help locate their prey as calls bounce off obstacles or prey. They make calls as they fly and listen to the returning echoes to build up a sonic map. Bats are sophisticated hunters and some bats can even distinguish between different insect species by their wing-beat frequency. 
 
Bats have a low reproduction rate and a long life expectancy – one baby per year and can live up to 30 years. They are warm blooded animals with the ability to regulate their body temperature and are also able to maintain their energy efficiency by reducing their body metabolism. 
Fascinating winged mammals! 
Bats at a Glance 
The most fascinating bat-facts all at one glance! 
 
Mating and Maternity 
 
• Female bats choose somewhere warm to gather in a maternity roost for a few weeks in summer. They have their babies there and nurture them until they are able to fly and feed themselves. 
• Bats mate during the autumn and sometimes into the winter with females storing the sperms and conceiving in spring when the weather is a little warmer. 
• Bats are very sensitive to disturbance during the maternity season and may abandon their young if this happens. Babies are suckled by their mothers till they are old enough to fly and they begin to venture out from the roost to forage for food. 
 
Habitat 
 
• Bats are numerous in the tropics; Indonesia with 175 species, Venezuela with 154 species and Mexico with 137 species. Central and South America are home to almost one third of the world’s bats. 
• Many bat species that occur on islands are found nowhere else in the world and in some places bats are the only native mammals. 
• Caves provide shelter for bats. In temperate areas, bats use caves as breeding sites in summer and hibernation sites in winter. Although bats don’t need to hibernate in the tropics, caves are still important. 
© Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International, www.batcon.org 
 
Diet 
 
• Most bats eat insects, some feed on pollen and nectar whilst others eat fruit. Few are highly specialized and feed on fish, frogs and even on other bats. 
• Some fruit feeding bats feed on fruits of commercial importance to humans. However they are important for seed dispersal. 
 
Eco-System Services 
 
• Bats are important pollinators in the tropical forests where some plants flower only at night to attract bats. 
• Chewing gum, tequila and sisal are three products of many which come from plants that at least partly rely on bats for pollination or seed dispersal. 
• They help control pests as some bats eat half their weight in insects in one night. 
 
Simply fascinating... 
 
• Bats can be as large as a small dog or as small as a bumblebee. Largest – flying foxes with wingspan of up to 2 metres and weigh 1.5 kilograms and bumblebee bat weighing 2 grams. 
• Bats are the only group of mammals to exhibit true flight. 
• Bats are often clean animals and spent hours grooming. 
• Bats are not likely to attack people or pets. 
 
Vampire Bats 
 
• Vampire bats are small – 7cm to 9cm and take approximately a tablespoon of blood each night. 
• Vampire bats are colony orientated with caring for those who cannot feed by regurgitating blood they have collected. 
• Stroke victims are said to benefit from studies of a clot-dissolving substance in the vampire bats’ saliva. 
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