Although they resemble rodents and can fly like birds, bats are mammals with all features of an ordinary mammal including giving birth and suckling their young ones. Bats are active at night, dawn, and dusk when they forage for food. Their bodies measure between three and seven inches with membranous wings of between eight inches and two feet depending on the species. They can produce a unique sound and interpret the echo in terms of direction, distance, velocity, and size of obstructions using their elongated ears. Bats are social animals and live in colonies in dark caves, old buildings, on trees, and in tunnels.
Categories of Bats
Belonging to the Chiroptera order, there are about 1,240 species of bats that are categorized into two suborders namely Megachiroptera (megabats) and Microchiroptera (microbats). The two categories or suborders are based on the size and other unique characteristics of the bats.
The Megachiroptera are also called fruit bats due to their tendency to feed on fruits. They also have slightly smaller ears and low ability to interpret sound waves. However, megabats have very sharp vision. Some adults will grow up to 40 centimeters with wings stretching up to more than two feet. Examples of bat families in the megachiroptera suborder are the black flying fox, Jamaican bat, golden capped bat, Mexican free-tailed, short-nosed bat, and the Egyptian fruit bat.
Microchiroptera suborder is made up of 17 bat families which are comparatively small and have more elongated ears and a tragus that adapt to echolocation. Though they have poor vision, they communicate via sound waves produces through either the mouth or the nose. They lack claws on the second finger and have little underfur. Examples of bat families in this suborder are bulldog bats, disc and sac-winged bats, brown-eared bats, horseshoe, mustached bats, slit-faced and false vampire bats. Both suborders hang upside down when resting in the roosts.
World’s Largest Bat Colony
Over twenty millions bats converge in a cave in Texas near San Antonio city every summer. The bats mostly drawn from Mexican free-tailed bats species fly for more than one thousand miles to the 100-foot wide cave known as Bracken Cave every March to October. Here, bats give birth in large numbers. Conservationists have prevented human interference both on the ground and on the air by ensuring that no lights are set up in the area. Over $20 million has been invested in the project. Bat Conservation International boasts of protecting over 10 million bats annually. The cave is surrounded by over 1,500 acres of bushland to attract bats all the summer seasons. During this period, the bats are of economic value to cotton farmers by feeding on destructive insects like the army cutworms and Bullworth moths.
How Many Bats Are There in the World?
Statistics indicated that bats are the second most populous mammals after rodents. This means that there could be up to one billion bats worldwide. Carrying out a census is difficult due to their nocturnal nature and hibernation during various seasons like winter. Seasonal migration and their torpor nature during metabolism, especially when there is insufficient food makes them hard to count.
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