Thursday, September 22, 2011

Today's Trivia - Bats

Because of folklore, superstitions and Hollywood-style horror movies, people associate bats with vampires, haunted houses, witches and an assortment of spooky and evil things. But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, not only are these creatures gentle, they are one of the most beneficial mammals around (yes, folks, bats are mammals, like us, NOT rodents...). These flying mammals are extremely vital to the survival of plants and animals. If the imperative pest control that bats provide came to an end, tons of pests would be left to destroy crops and spread disease.

Below are some interesting and “useful” little-known facts about bats. I urge you to take a moment and learn a little about these fascinating animals, which hopefully will help change your mind about them.

- There are about 1,100 bat species worldwide.

- About seventy percent of bats are insectivores. Most of the rest are frugivores, or fruit eaters. A few species such as the Fish-eating Bat feed from animals other than insects, with the vampire bats being the only mammalian parasite species.

- Bats are present throughout most of the world and perform vital ecological roles such as pollinating flowers and dispersing fruit seeds.

- Many tropical plant species depend entirely on bats for the distribution of their seeds.

- Kitti's Hog-nosed Bat, also known as the bumblebee bat, is the smallest species of bat (it’s 1.1 to 1.3 inches long and weighs about 0.071 ounces) and may be the world’s smallest mammal, depending on how size is defined.

- The largest species of bat is the Giant Golden-crowned Flying-fox, which is about 13 ½ inches long, has a wingspan of almost five feet and weighs approximately 2–3 pounds.

- Apart from the Arctic, the Antarctic and a few isolated oceanic islands, bats exist all over the world.

- Although the eyes of most bat species are small and poorly developed, leading to poor visual acuity, none of them are blind.

- Bats hunt at night to avoid competition with birds.

- Bats travel long distances in their search for food.

- The wings of bats are much thinner than those of birds, so bats can maneuver more quickly and more accurately than birds.

- The teeth of microbats are very sharp; they are able to bite through the hardened armor of insects or the skin of fruit.

- Bats make up the second largest order of mammals in the world.

- Bats rarely fly in rain as the rain interferes with their echo location, and they are unable to locate their food.

- The social structure of bats varies, with some bats leading a solitary life and others living in caves colonized by more than a million bats.

- 70% of bat species are insectivorous. Of the remainder, most feed on fruits. Only three species sustain themselves with blood.

- Bats use echolocation to locate and catch their prey. When bats fly, they produce a constant stream of high-pitched sounds that only bats are able to hear. When the sound waves produced by these sounds hit an insect or other animal, the echoes bounce back to the bat, and guide them to the source.

- When bats that eat insects are on the lookout for food, their rate of pulse emission is low, around ten pulses per second. However, once they zero in on their prey, they can emit as high as two hundred pulses per second when chasing their prey.

- Many garden insects and pests can hear a bat coming.

- Predators of bats include bat hawks and bat falcons.

- Bats may have one to three litters in a season. Females generally have one offspring at a time, which could be a result of the mother's need to fly to feed while pregnant.

- Female bats nurse their youngsters until they are nearly adult size; this is because a young bat cannot forage on its own until its wings are fully developed.

- Female bats use a variety of strategies to control the timing of pregnancy and the birth of young, to make delivery coincide with maximum food ability and other ecological factors.

- Females of some species have delayed fertilization, in which sperm are stored in the reproductive tract for several months after mating. In many such cases, mating occurs in the fall, and fertilization does not occur until the following spring. Other species exhibit delayed implantation, in which the egg is fertilized after mating, but remains free in the reproductive tract until external conditions become favorable for giving birth and caring for the offspring. In yet another strategy, fertilization and implantation both occur but development of the fetus is delayed until favorable conditions prevail. All of these adaptations result in the pup being born during a time of high local production of fruit or insects. (This is simply amazing...)

- A single bat can live over 20 years, but the bat population growth is limited by the slow birth rate.

- The bat droppings found in caves support whole ecosystems of unique organisms, including bacteria useful in detoxifying wastes, improving detergents, and producing gasohol and antibiotics.

- Tropical bats are key elements in rain forest ecosystems, which rely on them to pollinate flowers and disperse seeds for countless trees and shrubs.

- Desert ecosystems rely on nectar-feeding bats as primary pollinators of giant cacti, including the famous organ pipe and saguaro of Arizona.

- Each bat is typically able to consume one third of its body weight in insects each night, and several hundred insects in a few hours. This means that a group of one thousand bats could eat four tons of insects each year.

- If bats were to become extinct, the insect population is calculated to reach an alarmingly high number.

- Bats’ dung, or guano, is so rich in nutrients, that it is mined from caves, bagged, and used by farmers to fertilize their crops.

- Guano was used in the U.S. Civil War to make gunpowder.

- Bats consume huge amounts of flies, gnats, mosquitoes, beetles, and cockroaches, as well as other insects. Without the natural pest control that bats provide, literally tons of pests would be left to destroy crops and spread disease.

- Bats are slow to reproduce. Mothers usually give birth to a single pup per year.

- Female bats are caring mothers; they typically nurse their young for six months, and often coo to their pups as a human mother coos to her baby. cute...)

- Even though pups stay in a nursery which may contain millions of other pups, the mother bats can locate their own babies by their particular squeal and scent.

- Most bats do not drink blood. Of the more than 1100 species of bats, only three feed on blood. Two of these species of bats will only drink the blood of birds. The third type, known as the common vampire bat, will drink the blood of cows and other large animals, but only if the victim is asleep. These vampire bats are afraid of moving animals.

- Some seeds will not sprout unless they have passed through the digestive system of a bat. Fruit bats spread millions of seeds every year from the ripe fruit they eat, thus helping many types of plants and trees to grow and bear more fruit. Ninety-five percent of tropical rainforest reforestation is a result of this seed dispersal from bats.

- Like honeybees, some species of bats pollinate plants. In fact, some types of plants would not survive without the bats that feed on their nectar and pollen. Avocados, bananas, peaches, mangos, figs, and dates are all pollinated by bats, and would have a hard time reproducing without this service.

- The largest urban bat colony in the world is in Austin, Texas. Crowds gather nightly to watch 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats shoot out from under the Congress Avenue Bridge. The bats leave their home each evening and eat thousands of pounds of insects, including numerous agricultural pests. (You go, bats...)

- Bats have a built-in sonar system that allows them to navigate by sound, rather than sight. This echolocation system is so sensitive that bats are able to detect an object as fine as a strand of hair or the footsteps of an insect.

- Bats have been around a long time, since the age of dinosaurs.

- The bat’s fingers are very long compared to its body. If we had fingers like a bat, they would be longer than our legs!

- As winter approaches, a large portion of bats migrate hundreds of kilometers to a warmer climate. Some enter a torpor state in cold weather, rousing and feeding when warm weather allows for insects to be active. Others retreat to caves for hibernate, sleeping together in groups of hundreds for warmth.

- Bats represent about twenty percent of all classified mammal species.

- Mother bats have one baby in their litter; it is called a "pup." When a pup is born, it usually has no hair and its eyes are closed. It clings to the mother bat and drinks milk from her. When the pup is about four months old, it learns to fly.

- Although some people say all bats look like flying mice, their heads sometimes look like tiny dogs, bears or foxes.

- Depending on the species, bats can be gray, brown, white or reddish brown.

- Bats are very sociable animals, and live in large colonies.

- Bats like to live in dark places. Caves, holes in trees and even buildings are favorite homes.

- Bats sleep upside down. They use their feet to grasp onto a twig or board, and when it is cold, they hang close together.

- Fewer than 2% of bats submitted for testing have rabies (2% of all bats acting strangely, dead, or have possibly bitten a human or pet). In the overall population, this percentage would be much lower.

- Rabid bats often lose their ability to fly, or do not fly well. They rarely become aggressive.

- Bats are very clean animals; they groom themselves regularly.

- When moths hear the echolocation calls of bats, they are known to protect themselves. They do this by dropping to the ground, trying to escape.

- The footsteps of a beetle can be heard by an African heart–nosed bat from a distance of more than 6 feet.

- An anticoagulant found in the vampire bat’s saliva may soon be used to treat human heart patients and stroke victims.

- Little Brown bats are able to bring down their heart rate to 20 beats per minute and can even stop breathing for 48 minutes at a time, while in hibernation.

- Tiny Woolly bats of West Africa can be found in the large webs of colonial spiders.

- Some bat species eat small frogs, lizards, birds and fish.

- Frog-eating bats can distinguish between an edible and an inedible (poisonous) frog by listening to the mating calls of male frogs.

- To attract their mates during courtship, male Gambian epauletted bats of Africa are blessed with pouches in their shoulders that contain large, showy patches of white fur. The Chapin's free - tailed bats have large tufts of white hair on top of their heads which they use for the same purpose.

- Bats are the only mammals that can fly.

- A mother bat can locate her pup (baby) out of millions in a roost, by tracking down its scent and sound. (Moms are so great...)

- Agricultural plants like bananas, bread-fruit, mangoes, cashews, dates and figs rely on bats for pollination and seed dispersal.

- Bats seldom transmit disease to other animals or even humans.

- During winter hibernation, Red Bats can withstand body temperatures as low as 23 degrees.

- Many species of bats roost together in large groups known as colonies.

- Studies have indicated that the Old World fruit bats and flying foxes might have descended from early primates.

- Honduran white bat is completely white in color, with the exception of a yellow nose and ears.

- Vampire bats are one of the few mammals who risk their own lives to share food with the less fortunate roost-mates.

- A colony of 150 big brown bats can protect local farmers from up to 18 million or more rootworms each summer. (Wow...)

- The 20 million Mexican free-tails from Bracken Cave, Texas, eat 250 tons of insects nightly.

- Tequila is produced from agave plants whose seed production drops to 1/3,000th of normal without bat pollinators.

- Contrary to popular belief, bats are not blind.

- Nearly 40% of American bat species are in severe decline or already listed as endangered. Losses are occurring at alarming rates worldwide. (Very sad...)

- The common little brown bat of North America can live up to 33 years, though the average lifespan is shorter since about 50% of little brown bats die in their first year.

- Mexican free-tailed bats sometimes fly up to two miles high to feed or to catch tailwinds that carry them over long distances at speeds of more than 60 miles per hour.

- The pallid bat of western North America is immune to the stings of scorpions and even the seven-inch centipedes upon which it feeds.

- Fishing bats have echolocation so sophisticated that they can detect a minnow's fin as fine as a human hair protruding only two millimeters above a pond's surface.

- Red bats, which live in tree foliage throughout most of North America, can withstand body temperatures as low as 23 degrees during winter hibernation.

- The Honduran white bat is snow white with a yellow nose and ears. It cuts large leaves to make "tents" that protect its small colonies from jungle rains.

- Vampire bats adopt orphaned bats. (Sweet...)

- Male epauletted bats have pouches in their shoulders that contain large, showy patches of white fur, which they flash during courtship to attract mates.

- Bats sleep during the day and feed at night. The place that bats sleep in is called the "roost”.

- Bats emit ultrasonic sounds to communicate with each other.

- Bats always turn left when exiting a cave.

- African heart-nosed bats have a keen sense of sound; they can hear the footsteps of a beetle walking on sand from six feet away.

- Vampire bat saliva has been responsible for many advances in research into stroke recovery.

- Contrary to popular belief, there never has been a bat stuck in someone’s hair.


  1. I love bats, and that's a heck of a trivia list.

  2. My wife and I want to have a bat house in our yard. Not sure how well they work but it would be nice to have all those little insect eaters flying around each night.

  3. @Tatiana: Bats are really cool. If people knew more about them, they wouldn't have such a low opinion of them.


    @WebDebris: I'd like to do that, too. Bats do an amazing job at cleaning up unwanted inscets.