Bats. One of the world’s most amazing mammals. There is just something amazing about these little creatures that leaves people either completely amazed, or completely fearful. Or both.
What makes bats so spectacular? Just look at Austin, Texas, US, where the “bat bridge” has become a one of a kind tourist attraction. Every night throughout the summer, hundreds of people gather in downtown Austin, next to the Congress Ave bridge, and wait. Right after sunset, their waiting turns to amazement as over one million bats come pouring out from under the bridge, the nocturnal mammals heading out for a night on the town and in search of their next meal. Those bats, just from one bridge, in one city, can consume 10-20 THOUSAND pounds of insects each evening, surely reducing the amount of disease and other pest related problems in the city.
The interest garnered from the bat bridge, and other places like zoos, help the conservation efforts for the bats. There are over 1000 species of bats worldwide, and at least 9 of those species that reside in the United States are classified as endangered. Habitat destruction and pollution contribute to the dwindling number of bats, and like many other animals, humans continue to be the number one cause of their endangered status. Bats play an important role in a number of ecosystems, and are best left alone to do their bug cleanup. “If you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you”, is a general rule of thumb for many wildlife creatures, bats included.
Fun Bat Facts:
- Bats are the ONLY mammal with the capability of flight.
- With over 1000 species, bats make up a quarter of the number of mammal species on the planet.
- Bats have interesting wings- in fact their bone structure may look very familiar- it looks pretty close to what a human hand looks like, just with super long fingers, and a cool covering that allows them to fly.
- They won’t suck your blood… well, most of them won’t anyway. 70 per cent of bats eat insects. Some eat larger animals such as lizards. Others drink nectar. And, yeah, there’s that one bat from South America that drinks blood.
- Bats are EVERYWHERE. Everywhere in the world, that is, except for the polar areas and the driest of deserts.
- They live a REALLY long time. For most animals of that size, life span is pretty short. Not bats though, they can live 30-40 years in the wild.
- They’re not blind. But, with their super sense of hearing and echolocation, their sense of sound is so well evolved, their eyes aren’t really necessary. Echolocation allows an animal to basically bounce signals all around, and get a picture of the location just based on the sound. (Some humans with blindness have developed a similar sense, using a beeping device, they learn how the sounds bounce off of objects around them, and can picture obstacles in their way!)
- The largest bat species has a wing span of six feet!
- They make big babies!- relatively speaking of course. Their offspring, usually delivered one pup at a time, are 1/4 the size of their bodies (that would be like us having a 30-40 pound baby!)
- They believe in community. Bats are amazing communal animals, and the females work together to care for their offspring.
Fascinating animals for sure. So, don’t be afraid, but do not handle bats either- they can carry diseases from all the insects around. But, have a watch, take a picture, and be thankful for the beautiful bat creatures!