Bats are the only mammals that hang upside down. Did you know that bats are generally not dangerous and, in fact is are often helpful to humans? Take this quiz to learn more about bats.
There are more than 900 species of bats. Bats are the only flying mammals and they make up the Chiroptera group. Fruit bats make up the Megachiroptera group, while all other bats fall into the Microchiroptera group.
The wings of a bat are actually very long hands and fingers. Skin stretches over the fingers to the sides of their bodies and their legs, creating wings.
A bat that flies quickly will have long and narrow wings, while a bat that flies slowly will have short, wide wings that allow it to make sharp turns. When a bat wants to fly, it stretches out its arms and fingers, pulling the skin on its wings tight. Then it flaps its wings in order to move through the air and adjust its wing shape in order to steer, allowing it to dip, dive and turn.
Despite what people think, bats are unlikely to attack people or transmit disease. Rather, bats help to stabilize the environment by spreading pollen and eating insects.
The flying fox is the largest type of bat. Its wingspan is around six feet (two meters) wide and its body is around one foot long.
Bats generally live between 10 to 20 years.
Vampire bats live up to their name, living off the blood of other animals, including humans. Most bats, however, eat insects and fruit bats eat fruit.
A bat has four fingers and a thumb on its hands.
A bat's legs are usually very weak and many bats do not walk at all. Rather, they use their legs to hang from their roost. Bats have five toes on their feet, each of which has a curved claw that bats use to support themselves while hanging upside down.
The phrase "blind as a bat" is not exactly true. Bats have very well developed eyes, but are active at night, when it is hard to see with their eyes.
Bats use the process of echolocation to navigate and to find prey at night time. Echolocation is when the bats send out high-pitched sounds and listen to the way that the sound bounces back to them, telling them how close they are to other objects.
The flying fox usually claws into the fruit and presses it against the roof of its mouth, squeezing out all the juice. The bat then swallows the juice and spits out the pulp, skin and seeds. Flying foxes mainly eat wild figs, but they also like mangoes, bananas and papayas.
Flying foxes live in high trees in the tropical regions of Africa, Australia and Asia. Other types of bats may be found in trees, caves, abandoned buildings or caves.
Bats fly right-side up and almost always get rid of waste right-side up. Many bats give birth right-side up, but some birth upside down. Mothers nurse their babies upside down, holding the baby in their wings.
Some bats in the wet forests of Central and South America make themselves tents using the large leaves of the Heliconia plant. Heliconia leaves fold into an A-shape and the bats bite into the ridge of the leaf, to create a place where they can hang from. Over 20 bats may take shelter in a single, large Heliconia leaf.
Bats generally nest in colonies and are quite social creatures. However, some bats prefer to roost alone. Some species of bats have colonies that are all male or all female.
A little brown bat can eat hundreds of mosquitoes in a night. They can eat more insects than their own body weight. Big brown bats, a relative of the little brown bat, eats hundreds of beetles in a night.
Rabies is rare among bats but, if they do get rabies, bats will die. Bats with rabies die quietly and will not be obviously sick. This is why it is important not to pick up a bat that looks injured or unwell, since they may be quietly dying from rabies. If they get scared and bite you, you may catch the disease from them.
Some species of bats have become endangered because humans have destroyed their habitats, by entering their caves or cutting down their trees. People also kill bats to protect livestock and fruit. Another danger to bats are parasites, such as ticks, mites and fleas, which live off the bat's body but can make it sick and weak. Bats do not have many predators, since they are nocturnal, but snakes, raccoons, opossums and tarantulas do prey on bats.
Guano is bat waste and is rich with nutrients. Guano is mined from the floors of large caves for farmers, who use it as fertilizer.