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Bat Facts

Updated on April 22, 2015

The bat is a creature associated with the night and all the dangers lurking within it. But bats pose little to no threat to humans. Aside from the occasional virus that bats may carry there is little they can do to harm anyone.

A bat is actually a valuable member of the animal kingdom which consumes several hundred insects in a few hours each night. It is estimated that a colony of bats numbering 1000 would consume 4 tons of insects every year. That's a lot of bugs.

As one of the few mammals that possess the ability to fly the bat is definitely an interesting creature. One that definitely deserves to be explored further.

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5. Blind As A Bat

Interestingly no species of bat is truly blind although a number of them do have poorly developed and small eyes. In fact a number of species use vision to hunt prey on the ground and to travel long distances.

Some can see as well as you or I and use this visual acuity to recognize members of their highly social colonies and to hunt with deadly precision.

Other bat species can see ultraviolet light and have the ability to see in very dim conditions.

Flying dogs hanging upside down in a tree.
Flying dogs hanging upside down in a tree.

4. Echolocation

Bats hunt at night to avoid competition from birds and as a safeguard against being prey themselves so they had to evolve some unique abilities to compensate for this nocturnal behavior. Behold echolocation and all it's wonders.

Bats can emit a sound, often far outside the realm of normal human hearing, and detect if the sound has bounced off of some object in the way. An insect or obstacle in the direct path of a bat in total darkness appears plain as day with the use of echolocation.

Using this amazing ability bats are able to not only find prey in complete darkness but also determine what type of prey it is with remarkable accuracy.

Image - Peter van der Sluijs/WikiCommons

Slow Motion Bats In Flight

Bat in flight
Bat in flight

3. Bat Wings Are Remarkable Things

A bat wing is a valuable tool that not only allows the bat to take flight but also serve it in other ways as well. A wing of a bat is really just a membrane stretched over elongated finger bones.

A bat will wrap it's wings around itself when it sleeps trapping an insulating layer of air around it's body that keeps the bat warm. Some species use their wings to trap insects in flight.

The skin of a bat wing contains touch receptors called Merkel cells which are similar to those found on a human finger tip. Each of these cells also has a hair which adds so much sensitivity that a bat can detect the air flow over and under each wing while it flies. This allows it remarkable control in flight.

The wings are thinner than a birds which also help the bat be more maneuverable in flight. Unfortunately that also means a bat wing is very delicate and they can tear quite easily. Luckily bat wing membranes can regrow and small tears usually heal quickly.

Image - Leyo/WikiCommons

Horseshoe Bat in flight
Horseshoe Bat in flight

2. Blood Drinkers

Despite their association with vampires very few bats, only three species in fact, drink blood. They are the common vampire bat, the white-winged vampire bat and the hairy-legged vampire bat. These are the only known parasitic mammals in the animal kingdom.

Vampire bats are one of only a few species that have not lost the ability to move on the ground efficiently. This allows the vampire bats to jump onto a host from the ground using stealth.

Feeding is done by piercing the skin of the host with a sharp specialized tooth. The bat will then lap up the blood using it's tongue. The tongue has grooves which make this process very efficient. An anticoagulant in the bats saliva prevents the blood from clotting.

These little blood drinkers will often feed for up to a half an hour on their host until they are so full they can barely fly. They then hide themselves to allow some digestion and excretion of water occur allowing them to fly back to their roost.

Image - F. C. Robiller/WikiCommons

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1. World's Largest Urban Bat Colony

Ann W. Richards Congress Bridge in Austin Texas is home to the world's largest urban bat colony. It has been estimated that during the summer between 750,000 and one million bats make their home under the bridge.

The city of Austin concluded that the tourists that come to witness the bats emerge at dusk and the insects the bats remove are worth an amazing 7.9 million dollars a year to the city. As a result bats have become a major symbol for businesses there.

The Texas Department of Transportation is so impressed with these furry little critters and the work they do that a study has begun titled "Bats and Bridges" which aims to study the best ways to make bridges a home for more bats. That's dedication to our little friend the bat.

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