Flittermouse, and Everything Else You Wanted to Know About Bats
A flittermouse is an old English name for a bat which also closely matches a bat’s name in Swedish and German. Bats are mammals belonging to the Chipotera order. The word chipotera has an ancient Greek origin of two words, cheir meaning hand and pteron meaning wing. As the name suggests, this mammal’s forelimbs form webbed wings. Because of this feature, bats can sustain a flight for long periods of time. There are two suborders of bats, microbats and megabats, both with over 1,240 species. The Flittermouse lives in most regions of the world except the overly cold regions and it is ecologically and economically important in pollinating flowers, distributing fruit seeds, consuming insects, and its guano can be harvested from caves and used as manure.
Generally, all bats have a similar shape and wing structure, however, different species have finer details depending on their diet and social adaptations. Bat species vary in size. The largest bats may weigh up to 2.2 pounds and have a wingspan of up to five feet. The smallest mature bats have a mere wingspan of six inches and weigh about 0.07 pounds. Bats have mouths closely resembling that of rats with pointed ears. Most bats have long arms and fingers attached to the leg through a thin membrane which enables them to fly. Color-wise, they may have different shades of gray, tan, or brown.
Most bat species are polygamous with males mating with a variety of females. The males gather resources to attract females, and weaker males live away from females. Few species like the Mexican free-tailed bat are promiscuous, both males and females have multiple partners. As for the yellow-winged bat species, adults tend to be monogamous. In temperate regions, mating occurs during late summer and early autumn while tropical bats mate during the dry seasons. Most male bats leave a mating plug behind immediately after copulation. During hibernation, mating is in torpor and the female employs strategies to control the timing of mating, pregnancy, and birth, so birth occurs when food is plenty. These strategies include delaying fertilization where sperms stay in the female for months until she is ready. Females give birth with their heads face up so that gravity comes into play during the process. A newly born bat pup may be up to 40% the mother’s weight. Depending on the species, either the mother or father takes care of the young one.
Bats hang upside down to hide from predators which ensures an easy take off since they cannot run with their tiny legs and take off like birds. Microbats are nocturnal in nature whereas megabats are crepuscular. During winter, bats often migrate so that they can hibernate for periods of up to six months. They usually hibernate in abandoned mines, buildings, and caves in large colonies to generate warmth. Because they depend on echolocation, rarely do bats fly in the rain as this interferes with the ability to locate food. Socially, there are some species that are solitary while others live in colonies of at least one million. Certain species share food and train young ones in what appears to be strengthening of social bonds.
Habitat and Range
Since they can fly around, bats have become distributed, more than other mammals. In fact, the only places these mammals do not exist include the Arctic and Antarctic circles and a few oceanic islands. Typically, bats reside anywhere with safe places to hide from predators and where they have access to food and water. This include caves, abandoned mining shafts, under bridges or structures, chimneys, and abandoned buildings. Bats are, however, not generally bothered by human beings. Depending on species, different bats have preferred winter and summer habitats.
Bats feed on a variety of delicacies including nectar, insects, fruits, pollen, and vertebrates among others. Megabats mainly feed on pollen grains, fruit, and nectar. They are smaller and have a high metabolism because they burn energy as they move. Bats that feed on nectar have long muzzles and extensible tongues with fine bristles. Insectivorous bats feed on grasshoppers, crickets, termites, bees, wasps, flies, beetles, and moths among others. Other bat species feed on vertebrates including mammals, lizards, birds, fish, and frogs. Vampire bats feed exclusively on mammalian blood like that of cattle. They detect this prey through their breathing and heat emitted from their bodies. To reduce competition with birds and to avoid contact with other predators, predatory bats hunt at night managing to travel long distances of up to 500 miles in one night searching for food. They get their water needs from the food they eat, although some species get water from lakes and streams by dipping their tongues as they fly by without stopping.