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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 17 August 2005 Issue


Myths and Facts About Bats

Contrary to popular belief, bats are not blind and they do not try to become tangled in hair.

Bats are not related to rodents. In fact, fruit bats may soon be reclassified as primates!

Bats are the only flying mammals in the world.
(Flying squirrels do not fly, they glide!)

Of the world's 1000+ species, only three are vampire bats, limited mostly to Latin America. Vampire bats do not attack humans. They are very small and generally drink the blood of animals and poultry. Seventy percent of all bat species eat insects, most of the remaining 30% eat fruit, pollen and nectar.

Less than one-half of one percent of bats contract rabies. However, a grounded bat should never be handled because it may bite in self-defense. Call a wildlife rehabilitator or an animal organization for help.

Bats are vital to the ecosystem! Fruit bats bring us over 450 commercial products, including 80 medicines. The seed dispersal and pollination activities of fruit and nectar eating bats are vital to the survival of rain forests. Seeds dropped by tropical bats account for up to 95% of forest re-growth on cleared land. Night blooming plants and trees depend on nectar eating bats for pollination. An excellent example is the baobab tree of eastern Africa that is so important to the survival of other kinds of wildlife it is referred to as the "Tree of Life." Bats in the US eat millions of tons of insects annually. Alarmingly, bats are disappearing worldwide. They are now considered the most endangered land mammal in North America.

Like dolphins, most bats are extremely intelligent. Some bats have a highly complicated social structure that includes over 20 different vocalizations.

Bat fossils have been found that date back approximately 50 million years. Surprisingly, the bats of that ancient period very closely resembled those we know today.

Bats are such unique mammals that scientists have placed them in a group of their own, the Chiroptera, which means hand-wing. Bats are of the grand order, Archonta, grouped together with monkeys and flying lemurs.

Bats amount to approximately a quarter of all mammal species. They are found everywhere in the world except in the most extreme desert and polar regions.

Most bats navigate with high-frequency sounds. Using sound alone, they can detect obstacles as fine as a human hair in total darkness. The sophistication of their unique echolocation system surpasses current scientific knowledge!

Bats carefully groom themselves. Bats are among the cleanest of animals and are also exceptionally resistant to disease.

Bats, for their size, are the slowest reproducing mammals on earth. On average mother bats rear only one young per year. Some do not give birth until they are two or more years old. Like humans, bats give birth to poorly developed young and nurse them from a pair of pectoral breasts. Mother bats have been known to adopt each other's young.

Bats are exceptionally long-lived, some species can live up to 34 years!

Studies of bats have contributed to the development of navigational aids for the blind, birth control and artificial insemination techniques, vaccine production and drug testing, and a better understanding of low-temperature surgical procedures.

Bats are depicted as heroes in other parts of the world. In China they are held in high esteem as omens of good luck and happiness. In Scotland, the real estate value goes up when a home or castle is found to house a colony of bats! Native American Indians considered the bat a protector. Bats are often drawn on the corners of Native American sand paintings to guard the painting.

Return to Animals in Print 17 August 2005 Issue

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