Over the past year, the world saw a global pandemic and everything pretty much went to shit. Bats’ reputations have been major casualties. Many people now blame them for starting the spread of COVID-19, despite the fact that the virus was most likely transmitted to another animal before it was transmitted to humans and the fact that it took a human eating that animal for that transmission to even occur.
Give these bats a break, people. Even if COVID-19 was passed directly from a bat to a human, that bat never asked to be eaten!
Anyway, I’m here to set the record straight about these incredible animals with a couple of fun facts that, hopefully, will help change people’s opinions of these creatures. No, they aren’t winged rats. They’re majestic creatures that play a vital role in their ecosystems and help support an overall healthy environment.
Think about this: if there were no bats, there’d be no Batman.
Plus, there are some bats out there that are downright adorable. So, in the interest of restoring the reputation of bats, here are some pictures of cute bats and some equally adorable fun facts to help you learn more about these flying munchkins:
Bats Use Echolocation to Find Food
Even in complete darkness, bats will never starve. They can use high-pitched sounds to locate insects flying in the air or sitting in trees without needing their eyes. They emit around 10 to 20 beeping noises per second and then listen for the echoes and use those echoes to track their prey through the air. This practice is called echolocation.
There are animals other than bats that can utilize echolocation including dolphins, shrews, some birds, and even rats. However, bats have some of the most refined and effective echolocation abilities in the world.
They generate the ultrasound with their larynx and emit it through an open mouth or even occasionally through their nose. When the sound bounces off the target, the bat receives the sound with their tragus, a flap of skin on their external ear.
Using this sound, they can determine the location of their prey, what direction it’s moving in, and how fast it’s moving. This ability has made most bats very effective hunters even in the pitch black of night.
Bats Can Eat Over 1,000 Mosquitoes in an Hour
Now, I know that this article is supposed to be convincing you how cute bats are and that eating over 1,000 mosquitoes extremely quickly isn’t exactly cute. However, it does prove how good bats are at hunting. It’s estimated that they can actually consume around 1,200 mosquitoes in a single hour. In fact, bats will often eat more than half of their own body weight in insects every night.
If you think that eating tons of insects makes bats more gross than cute, I can’t say I wholly disagree with you. But if there were no bats eating thousands of insects every night, think about how many bugs there would be flying around your head right now. Bats are the most significant predator of night-flying insects, so we need to thank them for keeping our insect populations in control.
Bats Make Great Mothers
If you lost your child in a crowd of thousands of people, what’s the likelihood that you’d be able to locate them quickly? Not very high. Mother bats, on the other hand, can locate their offspring in a group of thousands of other bats by listening for their voice and tracking their scent.
Bats give birth to only one offspring per year, so they have to make sure that they take good care of their pups. Yes, baby bats are called pups!
The mother bat will give birth to her baby upside-down and then quickly catch the falling pup with her wings — an impressive feat of strength considering a newborn bat is already about a third of an adult bat’s weight. Mother bats even fly with their offspring clinging to their underarm nipple while they’re searching for food. These mama bats are seriously strong!
The World’s Largest Bat Is Called a Flying Fox
If you ever take a trip to Southeast Asia, whether it’s Indonesia, Malaysia, or the Philippines, you might just encounter the world’s largest bat: the large flying fox. These big boys can be as long as 13 inches from head to toe and have a wingspan of up to 9 inches.
It’s called the flying fox because its face resembles a fox, much like many other larger bats. They typically live in groups that fly together, which can be quite intimidating to see because of their size.
Unfortunately, the large flying fox is hunted, mostly in Malaysia, for its meat. In the early 2000s, thousands of hunting licenses were issued, giving people free rein to kill large flying foxes.
For a while, around 22,000 large flying foxes were being hunted each year, a trend that was going to decimate the population if those numbers weren’t reduced. The large flying fox is now considered a near-threatened species, especially since the population has been feeling the effects of deforestation.
Bats Help Give Us Fruits
Do you like bananas? How about mangoes? Have you jumped all over the new avocado toast fad? Well, without bats, we probably wouldn’t have bananas, avocados, mangoes, and many other types of fruits and vegetables. In fact, there are over 300 species of fruits alone that rely on bats for pollination.
Much like birds and bees, bats dig their nose into plants in search of food. Then, when they fly from plant to plant, they inadvertently pollinate those plants and help them to reproduce. So, while many don’t associate bats with pollination, they actually help fruit trees and flowers multiply. And who doesn’t like flowers and fruits?
Bats Are the Only Flying Mammals
Bats are mammals of the order Chiroptera. Unlike other mammals, bats can fly! Flying squirrels are also mammals, but they can only glide short distances, making bats the only true fliers among mammals. I guess that humans can fly too, but not without the help of an airplane, helicopter, or, at the very least, a hangglider.
Not only do they fly, they’re really good at it. The fastest bat on Earth, the Mexican free-tailed bat, is capable of flying around 100 miles per hour.
Using echolocation, they can fly around at night without hitting tree branches or other obstacles. A bat’s wings are also covered in sensitive little bumps that allow it to adjust to the airflow around it more accurately.
The Oldest Bat Is 41 Years Old
It’s a widely accepted principle of nature that smaller animals have shorter lifespans. However, bats have found a way to go against that rule. In fact, the record for the oldest known bat was 41 years old and was set by a tiny Brandt’s myotis bat in Siberia in 2006.
The bat was living in a cave in the Siberian region of Russia in 1964 when it was captured and tagged by scientists. 41 years later, scientists recaptured the still-living bat and discovered that it actually set a record for the world’s oldest bat ever recorded. This bat wasn’t just old. In terms of cute bats, Brandt’s myotis is definitely one of the cuter species.