Bat Facts

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There are Over 1,100 Different Types of Bats Worldwide

Bat facts show that there are more than 1,100 different types of bats in the world. Incredibly, bats represent approximately 20% of the world’s mammal population and are the only mammals that can fly. Common bat types include the little brown bat, large brown bat, fruit bat, vampire bat, and flying fox. Bats are divided into two suborders: megabats, which refers to the larger, fruit-eating bats of Africa, Asia, and Australia, and microbats, referring to the smaller, insect-eating bats found throughout the world.

Bats Can Live to be More than 30 Years Old

While the average lifespan of a bat is between 10 and 25 years, some bats live much longer. The little brown bat can live for up to 30 years in the wild, while the Brandt’s bat has been known to live for more than 40 years. Bat facts tell us that bats live considerably longer than other mammals their size. It is suspected that their longevity may be related to hibernation, which causes their bodies to enter into a low-energy mode that reduces their metabolism, as well as to their tendency to roost in high, out-of-the-way places, away from the reach of predators.

Bats Can Fly at Speeds Up to 60 Miles per Hour

Bats are extremely agile fliers, capable of moving with incredible precision while continually dipping, weaving, and changing direction in order to capture food and avoid predators. Bats don’t “take off” from the ground, but enter into flight by dropping into the air from a height of two or three feet in order to achieve lift. Bat facts tell us that bats can fly at speeds ranging from 12 mph to 60 mph. They navigate through the dark by using a process called echolocation, emitting high-pitched sounds as they fly. These sounds are then echoed back to them, allowing the bats to build a picture of their surroundings according to the reflected sound.

Bats Live in Caves, Trees, Barns, and Attics

Bat facts show that bats live all over the world, except on the continent of Antarctica and some very isolated islands. Some bats favor secluded roosts, such as caves, barns, and attics, while others prefer more exposed shelters, such as tree branches and rocky overhangs. Most bats are colonial, living together in colonies that can number into the hundreds and even thousands in population. Bats roost during the day, sleeping upside down and huddled together for warmth and protection from predators.

Bat Predators Include Snakes, Owls, Raccoons, and Spiders

Bats are known to have many natural predators. Bat facts show that the majority of bats are attacked during the day by predators such as snakes, raccoons, and weasels that climb into their roosts and attack them while they sleep. Others are attacked at night as they fly by large birds of prey, such as hawks and owls. Bats are also hunted by large spiders, such as the huntsman and tarantula, which lie in wait outside their roost, catching them as they exit or enter. However, the biggest threat to bats by far is man. Thousands of bats die each year from the ingestion of crop insecticides, while others die due to deforestation, extermination, and intensive farming practices that reduce the population of insects.

Bats Sleep, Mate, and Give Birth Upside-Down

Bat facts show that bats sleep upside-down, hanging from the rooves of caves and barns, rocky outcroppings, and building overhangs. The upside-down position allows bats to roost in high, out-of-the-way places where they are safe from predators, while making it possible to enter into flight quickly should escape become necessary. Bats begin flight by simply dropping into the air, a feat accomplished quickly and efficiently by letting go of their perch. The upside-down position is easy to maintain; the bat simply grabs onto the overhead surface and relaxes, causing the weight of its body to contract tendons attached to its talons, locking them into place and supporting the bat effortlessly.

A Bat Can Eat Up to 1,200 Mosquitoes in a Single Night

While the majority of bats feed on insects, such as mosquitoes, moths, gnats, and beetles, others eat fruit, plant nectar, and even the blood of animals. Bat facts tell us that insect-eating bats can consume as many as 1,200 mosquitoes in a single night. They orient themselves and hunt for food through the process of echolocation; emitting high-pitched sounds as they fly that echo back, judging distance and location by the reflected sound. Fruit-eating bats feed on ripe fruit and plant nectar, using their excellent eyesight and sense of smell to locate fruits and plant blossoms, which they feed on with sharp teeth and long tongues specifically suited to their diets.

Bats Rely on Echolocation to “See” in the Dark

Contrary to popular belief, bats are not blind. Some bats see quite well and all are sensitive to changes in light. Bats cannot see in the dark, but navigate at night using echolocation. Bat facts tell us that bats orient themselves to the location of objects around them by listening to sounds reflected back from high-pitched calls they send out as they fly. Bats are able to determine not only the precise location, but also the size, shape, and texture of objects around them by the depth, intensity, and pitch of the reflected sound.

Bats are the Slowest Producing Mammals on Earth

Bat facts tell us that bats don’t begin reproducing until age two, generally producing just one offspring per year. Bats mate during autumn and winter, and the female carries the male’s sperm throughout the winter before ovulating in spring and becoming pregnant. Gestation periods last between 40 days and 6 months, depending on the species, after which time the newborn bats, known as pups, are born with their eyes closed and without fur. Pups feed on milk produced by the mother’s mammary glands until they are approximately three weeks old; after this age they can fly and are almost full-sized.

Bats Eat as Many as 18 Million Rootworms Each Summer

Bats are one of the world’s most important resources for pest control. Bat facts tell us that a colony of 150 big brown bats can eat as many as 18 million rootworms in a single summer, saving farmers thousands of dollars in pest control and lost crops, while the 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats living in Bracken Cave outside of Austin, Texas consume 250 tons of insects every night. Bats provide a vital service to the world’s ecosystems. Fruit and nectar-feeding bats pollinate more than 130 different varieties of plants, including economically important crop plants such as bananas, mangos, avocados, almonds, and cashews. Seeds consumed during feedings are dispersed through the bat’s feces, allowing for new plant growth and providing a rich fertilizer that plays an important role in the revitalization of the world’s rainforests.

The Giant Golden-Crowned Flying Fox is the World’s Largest Bat

The world’s largest bat is the golden-crowned flying fox, a rare fruit bat found in the rainforests of the Philippines that gets its name from its pointy ears, foxlike snout, and golden fur around its head. These giant bats can weigh up to 3 pounds and sport a wingspan of 5 to 6 feet. Bat facts tell us that the golden-crowned flying fox bat feeds primarily on figs and can travel more than 25 miles in a single night in search of food. Unfortunately, the golden-crowned flying fox is currently facing extinction due to poaching, destruction of habitat, and extreme weather conditions such as drought and typhoons.

The Bumblebee Bat is the World’s Smallest Bat

The world’s smallest bat is the bumblebee bat. Weighing less than 2 grams and measuring about an inch long, the bumblebee bat lives in limestone caves along the rivers of Thailand and southeast Burma. Bat facts tell us that bumblebee bats are usually red or gray, with a pig-like snout, large ears, and small eyes. They have large, long-tipped wings, which allow them to hover, and a web that stretches between their back legs that helps them to maneuver. They feed on spiders, flies, and other insects for short periods during late evening and early dawn. Bumblebee bats are an endangered species, largely due to the annual burning of forests in Thailand, which occurs during the bumblebee bat’s primary breeding season.

Bats Swarm during Courtship before Going Off to Mate in Private

Bats mate in late summer and early autumn, engaging in a ritual swarming event that involves huge numbers of bats swooping, circling, and chasing each other, before retiring to a secluded portion of their roost to mate, sometimes in pairs, and sometimes in groups of one male and several females. Bat facts show that certain bat species have been known to engage in oral sex. Researchers have observed the female short-nosed fruit bat performing oral sex on males and the male Indian flying fox bat doing the same to females, an act they say likely has evolutionary benefits.

Vampire Bats Live off the Blood of Other Warm-Blooded Animals

Vampire bats are medium-sized, tailless bats with short fur and a conical-shaped muzzle. They feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals, such as cows, horses, pigs, and chickens, by approaching their prey from behind and attacking from the ground on all fours. Bat facts tell us that vampire bats use their small, sharp teeth to pierce the skin of their victim, leaving a small cut that produces a trickle of blood that they lap up with their tongue. The vampire bat’s saliva acts as an anticoagulant agent that prolongs the blood flow and prevents clotting, allowing it to feed on an animal for as long as 30 minutes. Vampire bats rarely bite humans, generally doing so only when their usual food source has become scarce or disappeared.

The World’s Largest Bat Colony is Home to Over 20 Million Bats

Located on the outskirts of San Antonio in the Texas Hill Country, the Bracken Bat Cave is home to over 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats. The Bracken Bat Cave is owned by Bat Conservation International, a global organization dedicated to the protection of bats and their habitats. The cave is open to the public June through September, when visitors can join tours that watch from a protected viewing area as the bats leave the cave each evening in huge black waves and fly to nearby fields to feed.

Bats Survive Freezing Temperatures during Hibernation

Bats that live in colder climates generally hibernate in winter when the temperatures drop to freezing and the insect population becomes scarce. They cluster together on cave walls and ceilings, sometimes encased in ice and eating nothing for periods of up to six months and longer. Bat facts tell us that bats survive this long dormant period by reducing their body temperature, which slows their metabolism and allows them to live on fat stored throughout the summer. During hibernation, bats are known to lose approximately half of their normal body weight.

Tiny Woolly Bats of West Africa Live in the Webs of Colonial Spiders

While most bats roost in caves, trees, and buildings, others choose to roost in some strange and unusual places. The Southeast Asian bumblebee bat lives in the cracks of bamboo stalks, squeezing in through a space no wider than a few millimeters, while the tiny woolly bat of West Africa has been known to roost in the large webs of colonial spiders! Disk winged bats have special suction pads on their wrists and feet that allow them to attach themselves to the inside of furled leaves, where they roost in a vertical row in a heads-up position, rather than the usual upside-down position common to most bats.

Carnivorous Bats Prey on Birds, Frogs, Lizards, Fish, and Even Other Bats

Carnivorous bats are fearsome night hunters that are uniquely equipped to hunt for their particular type of prey. Fish-eating bats trawl over water for small fish, snagging them with specialized hind legs and toenails before taking them back to their roost to feed, while the fringe-lipped frog-eating bat determines poisonous frogs from nonpoisonous ones by listening to the mating call of the male frog.
While the majority of carnivorous bats feed on small birds, lizards, rodents, and fish, the spectral bat has been known to feed on other bats, as well. With its hunting skills considered second only to those of the jaguar, the spectral bat uses its keen sense of smell to locate prey, neutralizing it with a single crushing bite to the skull.

The Anticoagulant in Vampire Bat Saliva May Someday Be Used to Treat Stroke Victims

Scientists have recently become interested in a protein contained in the saliva of the vampire bat. Bat facts tell us that vampire bats feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals by piercing the skin and then lapping at the blood flow, sometimes for as long as half an hour. The vampire bat’s saliva contains a protein that acts as an anticoagulant, which prevents clotting while keeping the victim’s blood flowing freely. Scientists are hoping this protein might be useful in the treatment of stroke victims, particularly those who have delayed treatment for several hours, placing them more at risk and lessening their chances for successful treatment with standard clot-busting drugs.

15 Bat Species are Listed as Threatened or Endangered

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was passed in 1973 to protect and recover threatened and endangered species and their ecosystems. The act is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, who identify and document species that are considered threatened or endangered. Bats included on the ESA list of endangered species are the Bulmer’s Flying Fox Bat, Bumblebee Bat, Rodrigues Flying Fox Bat, Singapore Roundleaf Horseshoe Bat, Florida Bonneted Bat, Gray Bat, Hawaiian Hoary Bat, Indiana Bat, Lesser Long-Nosed Bat, Mariana Flying Fox Bat, Mariana Fruit Bat, Mexican Long-Nosed Bat, Northern Long-Eared Bat, Ozark Big-Eared Bat, and Virginia Big-Eared Bat.

Bat Facts – Facts about Bats Summary

Bat FactsBat facts tell us there are more than 1,100 different types of bats in the world. They are classified into two suborders; megabats, the larger fruit-eating bats native to Africa, Asia, and Australia, and microbats, smaller insect-eating bats found around the world. Bats are considered a “keystone species”. They are instrumental in plant reproduction and play a critical role in the world’s pest control. Bats very rarely bite people, and generally only do so in extreme circumstances or when their regular food supply is unavailable.

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