The United Nations has declared 2011-2012 as International Year of the Bat and Bat Conservation. Learn here more about bats.
The wings of a bat are actually thin membranes of skin that stretch between the fingers of the front leg and extend to the hind legs and tail. The unique wing structure them a great deal of flight maneuverability in catching quick-moving insects. The bat folds its wings alongside its body when it rests to protect the delicate finger bones and wing membranes.
Ready to feed on centripede and flowering plants; Source
Bats are not blind; in fact they can see almost as well as humans. But to fly around and hunt for insects in the dark, they use a remarkable sonar-like high frequency system called echolocation. They make calls as they fly and listen to the returning echoes by which they are able to map their surroundings and gauge how near or far the source of sound is. These calls are usually pitched at a frequency too high for humans to hear naturally.
Some bats migrate to warmer climates during the winter. But many spend most of the winter hibernating, a state of inactivity in which their bodies have lower temperature and metabolic rate. They use stored fat as fuel and save energy over the colder months when insects are harder to find. They come out of hibernation in summer.
Bats mate during the autumn. The females then store the sperm, go into hibernation, and do not become pregnant until the weather gets warmer. Pregnant females gather together in maternity roosts to deliver their young. Pregnancy lasts between 6 and 9 weeks. Females usually give birth to a single baby each year. For 4 to 5 weeks, the young are suckled by their mothers until they are old enough to fly.
Bats are very sensitive to disturbance during the maternity season and may abandon their young if they are disturbed.
Most bats feed on insects — 70% of all bats are insectivorous. But the fabled vampire bats feed on blood of larger animals. Vampire bats live in large colonies in Central and South America where they feed mostly from the abundant livestock.
Vampire bats emerge in the depth of night from dark caves, mines, tree hollows, and abandoned buildings in Mexico and Central and South America. They glide stealthily through the night air as they search for food and when they spot cattle etc., they drink their blood.
Vampire bats possess some fascinating adaptations to enable feeding on other animals’ blood. They have specialized infrared sensors on their nose which aids them in locating an area where the blood flows close to the skin. Having pointed, blade-like sharp incisors helps them drink blood from an animal for more than 30 minutes without waking up or hurting its victim. Strong hind legs and a special, elongated and robust thumb help the bat to climb around on its prey and to take off after feeding. The saliva of vampire bats contains a substance, draculin, which prevents the victim’s blood from clotting.
Flying Fox Bats
The flying fox, Pteropus vampyrus, is the world’s largest bat species. Its wingspan reaches 6, sometimes even 7, feet and is so large it looks like the real batman. Flying foxes live only in tropical and subtropical areas including Australia and eat primarily fruit and nectar and act as flower pollinators and seed dispersal agents.
Despite bats’ many benefits including pollination and insect control, their populations are declining nearly everywhere. They are an endangered species due to loss of habitat including forested areas and inappropriate use of pesticides. The decline in their numbers cause people to increase their use of chemicals to control insects. Excessive use of chemicals can be harmful to human health and harmful to wildlife.