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Facts About Bats

Updated on June 30, 2013
Big Eared Townsend Bat
Big Eared Townsend Bat | Source

Bats are Mammals, Not Birds

Even though bats can fly, they are mammals and not birds.

They have fur rather than feathers. Bat foetuses develop inside their mother's uterus, obtaining oxygen and nutrients through the placenta, and female bats produce milk, which they feed to their young. All these are characteristics of mammals.

There are thought to be around 1000 different species of bats, the exact number is a subject of dispute between experts. They all belong to the order Chiroptera, which consists of two suborders, the megabats and the microbats.

The megabats are medium to large sized, and feed mainly on fruit and nectar. The microbats are smaller, as the name suggests, and are mainly insectivores.

A comparison between the homologous bones of a bat and mouse forelimb.  The bat's "fingers" are greatly elongated compared to the mouse.
A comparison between the homologous bones of a bat and mouse forelimb. The bat's "fingers" are greatly elongated compared to the mouse. | Source

Bats are the Only Mammals That Can Fly

Bats are the only mammals capable of true flight, rather than gliding. The bats wing bones are homologous to the forelimbs of other mammals, but undergo many modifications to adopt them for flight. Specifically the bat forelimb bones are thinner, and the fingers are greatly elongated.

During embryonic development, all mammals have webs between the fingers of their forelimbs, but then loose the membrane through programmed cell death. This does not happen in bats, and the membrane between the elongated "fingers" of the forelimb forms the wing.

The tips of the bats' wing are also much more flexible than normal mammalian fingers allowing them great control over their wings duiring flight.

Micro-bats Use Echolocation to Hunt Prey at Night

Bats are nocturnal and for microbats, which feed on insects and other animals, sight is not good enough when flying at night hunting their prey. Because of that they evolved the use of echolocation when hunting.

While flying the animals emit ultrasonic sounds, then listen to their echoes. Since the sounds bounce off solid objects, or potential prey, the bats brains are able to construct an accurate 3D image of their surroundings, in total darkness.

Megabats don't use echolocation, since they feed on fruit and nectar, rather than insects.

The common vampire bat is a rather ugly creature.
The common vampire bat is a rather ugly creature. | Source

Vampire Bats that Feed Exclusive on Blood

There are three different species of vampire bats. These rather macabre creatures, bite their victim, then lap their blood.

All three species are native to Central and South America, and are found in Mexico, Brasil, Chile and Argentina. The common vampire bat specialises on feeding on the blood of mammals, while both the hairy legged, and the white-winged vampire bat prefer to feed on birds.

Vampire bats have thermoreceptors on their noses. These are thought to help them identify areas of their victim's body where blood flows closely under the skin.

Their saliva contains special anti-coaggulants, which prevents the blood from clotting and allows them to feed longer. These anti-coaggulants have been used to develop drugs for stroke victims.

Unlike their cousins with normal feeding habits, vampire bats are quite capable of moving and even running on the ground. This is because they prefer feeding on sleeping animals, and they usually approach them from the ground.


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    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 4 years ago

      aa lite - I told you I did not study them, I only quickly scanned one article. I read about the rabies - I just wanted to forget that part. I simply decided that I would never live in, or visit, those areas. :-)

    • aa lite profile image

      aa lite 4 years ago from London

      Thanks Examiner-1. I think vampire bats do bite humans as well. I've heard they drink about 20g of blood, which sounds more like a tablespoon.

      I think the potential harm comes not from the amount of blood they drink, but for the fact that they are carriers of diseases especially rabies. The danger is not just from vampire bats, any rabid bat could bite a human.

      I don't think the incidence of rabies in bats is that high, but the disease is so horrible and fatal unless treated, so it is a definite concern.

    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 4 years ago

      I found this article interesting even though I had done some of my own brief research on bats, but not studies. In fact, I just recently scanned an article about the vampire bats to see if they could harm humans. The answer is no since they can only drink about a teaspoon of blood. Whew.