DID YOU KNOW?
The scientific name for bats, Chiroptera, is derived from Ancient Greek cheir = hand + pteron = wing, or “hand wing”.
Historically bats have been known as ‘flutterers’, ‘bald mice’and ‘flitter mice’ (Fledermaus in German) because people thought of them as flying mice. Actually, bats are not related in any way to rodents.
The fear of bats is known as ‘Chiroptophobia’.
Bats generally have better flying skills than birds.
Bats hang upside down because having legs heavy and strong enough to hold them upright would be too much extra weight, and energy, to carry around in flight.
A bat’s echolocation is sensitive enough to detect the thinnest of human hair.
The agave plant from which tequila is made is pollinated only by bats. No bats = no tequila!
Some species of bats can store viable sperm for many months, and others can hold their pregnancy in limbo for months as well.
Bacardi created their famous bat logo in honour of the bats living in the rafters of the family distillery. In Cuba at that time, bats were considered a symbol of good luck. Bats are natural friends of the rum industry as they pollinate the sugarcane crops and prey on insects that damage them.
Flying-foxes have a sense of smell that is so good they can distinguish between less than a gram of banana and artificial essence….at a distance of 100 metres!
The pollination of plants by bats is called ‘chiropterophily’.
Bats are not blind, not even the microbats
(although they do not rely heavily on sight as much as flying-foxes do).
Flying-foxes have excellent eyesight (20 times better than our own!) and can see up to 1 kilometre at night. Many of our native trees have evolved to have light coloured blossoms and fruit which are highly visible to flying-foxes on dark nights.
Bats do not get tangled in people’s hair. They are all good navigators and naturally fearful of humans, so even an accidental collision is most unlikely.
The intelligence of a flying-fox is estimated to be equivalent to a two year old human.
Newborn bats weigh one-third of their mother’s weight. This is the equivalent of humans giving birth to a two-year-old!
A 2003 study found an anticoagulant drug derived from bat saliva (called desmoteplase) can help stroke patients.
Flying-foxes chew and crush fruit against their hard palate. The fibrous pulp ejected after the juice is extracted is called a ‘spat’. Digestion is very rapid and takes approximately 20 minutes.
Bat poo, also known as guano, is high in phosphorus and nitrogen. It is important as fertilizer in many tropical regions.
During the American Civil War, potassium nitrate (saltpetre) was extracted from bat guano for use in gunpowder and explosives.
Insectivorous bats can consume several thousand insects each night. Because they eat so many insects (which have exoskeletons made of a shiny indigestible material called chitin) the bat poop of some species can sparkle.
Microbes in bat poo have been found to aid in cleansing toxic soils.
Bat poo on the car or other surfaces can be removed by soaking with water and washing off with a soft cloth. Unless the paint is old or peeling and the poo is washed off promptly, no permanent damage should result.
Microbat droppings can be identified by crushing. Their crumbly texture is due to their composition of insect fragments (wash your hands after trying that test!)
Flying-foxes are exceptionally clean animals. To toilet, they invert (or hang right-side-up) in order to avoid soiling themselves. During hot weather, a mother bat may urinate deliberately on her young to help cool it down.
There are approx. 1,200 species of bats around the world.
There are 3 species of vampire bats occurring only in Central and South America. These small bats weigh less than 50 gms. Their main prey is domestic livestock, particularly cattle, goats and fowl.
Over 300 species of fruit depend on bats for pollination. Bats help spread seeds for nuts, bananas, avocados, figs and cacao (imagine a world without chocolate!)
Bats can live up to 30 years in the wild. In 2006, a tiny bat from Siberia set the world record at the age of 41 years!
Colonies of cave bats in Australia can exceed 100,000 individuals. Since each bat may eat around 12 gms of insects per night, such a colony would consume nearly 440,000 kilos of insects per year. This is equivalent to the weight in insects of 16 grown men per night, or the weight in insects of nearly 300 family cars in a year!
Bats can hear frequencies between 20Hz to 120,000 Hz. The hearing range depends on the species of bat. Humans can hear between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz.
A single microbat can eat more than 600 insects per hour – equivalent to a human eating 20 pizzas in one night.
Bats spread millions of seeds every year from the ripe fruit they eat.
The fastest bat in the world is the Brazilian or Mexican Free-Tailed Bat (Tadarida brasiliensis). It can achieve flight speeds of 160 km per hour (100mph).
One of the largest bat species in the world (based on weight) is the Giant golden-crowned flying-fox (Acerodon jubatus), an endangered species found in the Philippines. The maximum size is believed to approach 1.2 kilograms with a wingspan of 1.5 metres. The other largest bat (based on wingspan) is the endangered Malayan or Large Flying-fox (Pteropus vampyrus). It has the largest wing span of any bat species at 1.8 metres and weighs about 1.1 kilograms.
The smallest bat in the world is the endangered Bumblebee bat (Craseonycteris thonglongyai) of western Thailand and southeast Myanmar. It is only 29-33 millimetres in length, approximately 2 grams in weight and has a wingspan of up to15 centimetres.
In South-East Asia, about 70% of the fruits sold in the markets come from plants that in the wild are solely derived from bat pollination or seed dispersal.
Throughout the world over 400 industrial products are derived from bat dependent plants. These include food, medicine and other products such as kapok and sisal.