Bats are flying mammals in the order Chiroptera. The forelimbs of bats are webbed and developed as wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight. There are about 1,100 bat species worldwide, which represent about twenty percent of all classified mammal species. About seventy percent of bats are insectivores. Most of the rest are frugivores, or fruit eaters. A few species feed from animals other than insects. 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.
Bats range in size from (1.14–1.30 in) in length and 2 g (0.07 oz) in mass to(4 ft 11 in) and weighs approximately 1.2 kg (3 lb).
There are two traditionally recognized suborders of bats:
- Megachiroptera (megabats)
- Microchiroptera (microbats/echolocating bats)
Megabats eat fruit, nectar or pollen while most microbats eat insects; others may feed on the blood of animals, small mammals, fish, frogs, fruit, pollen or nectar. Megabats have a well-developed visual cortex and show good visual acuity, while microbats rely on echolocation for navigation and finding prey.
Most bats have a breeding season, which is in the spring for species living in a temperate climate. Bats may have one to three litters in a season, depending on the species and on environmental conditions such as the availability of food and roost sites. Most bats are nocturnal creatures. Their daylight hours are spent grooming, sleeping, and resting; it is during the nighttime hours that they hunt. The majority of food consumed by bats includes insects, fruits and flower nectar, vertebrates and blood. Almost three-fourths of the world’s bats are insect eaters. Insects consumed by bats include both aerial insects, and ground-dwelling insects. 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.
Most microbats are nocturnal and are active at twilight. A large portion of bats migrate hundreds of kilometres to winter hibernation dens, some pass into torpor in cold weather, rousing and feeding when warm weather allows for insects to be active. Through conservancy efforts, such as the Organization for Bat Conservation, bats are becoming better understood and people beginning to understand the crucial role bats play in insect control and pollination. Due to the risk of rabies and also due to health problems related to their faecal droppings (guano), bats should be excluded from inhabited parts of houses.
“Bat” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 1998-2010. Web. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bat>