Bat (animal) – Information, habitat and characteristics

We explain everything about the bat, its habitat, food and other characteristics. Also, how they reproduce and how long they live.

There are about 1,100 different species of bats.

What is a bat?

The bats they are the only mammals capable of flight. We refer to a very numerous and varied set (around 1,100 different species, the second most diverse order of all mammals) of nocturnal animals, whose upper extremities constitute membranous wings around her hairy body.

Formerly it was thought that bats were blind, probably because they fly and live in the dark. In fact, its name comes from the old Castilian blind death (“Blind mouse”), given its similarity to rodents, and this term in turn derives from the Latin mus (“mouse”) caeculus (blind). Today we know that they are not blind, they simply use an echolocation system to recognize their surroundings and capture their prey in the air.

The bats constitute a particularly numerous order called chiroptera, which represents 20% of all known mammalian species.

Adapted to all kinds of different ecological niches, these animals are the only vertebrates, along with birds, capable of flight. This capacity would have been developed during the Meocene, about 40 to 55 million years ago, when they diverged from their predecessor, some insectivorous mammal with a mainly arboreal life.

The presence of these animals in the culture is also ancestral, generally associated with the demonic and the sinister, given their nocturnal habits, except in Chinese culture where they are considered to be a good omen.

Special mention should be made of the hematophagous species, that is, that feed on the blood of other higher animals, known as “vampires” and associated with the myths and legends of supernatural creatures that drink human blood.

Bat characteristics

bat characteristics
Bats rest during the day and come out to feed at night.

In general, bats are characterized by the following:

  • They are light animals, whose bodies vary according to the species, ranging from 30 millimeters in length and 2 grams in weight (in the case of the blowfly bat) to 1.5 meters in length and 1.2 kilograms in weight (like the Alpine flying fox) .
  • Its body is made up of a head, a torso and limbs, just like any rodent, but in its case the upper limbs form a pair of membranous wings, with which they can thermally insulate the torso during their breaks.
  • Of night life, often rest head-down in caves or dark places during the day, and during the night they go out to feed. Many species play an important role in flower pollination, as do many birds and insects.
  • They have a complicated ultrasound emission system, imperceptible to the human ear, with which they act as radar to detect what is in their environment.
  • While their body tends to be more or less similar in all species (except size), their heads can be really diverse in their conformation, they can be more or less similar to rodents, or on the contrary, have a unique appearance.
  • The bats are important reservoirs of viral diseases, some of which can jump to humans (zoonoses), or to other species, such as rabies, hepacivirus and possibly the Ebola virus. This is a problem to the extent that deforestation and human expansion promote contact between new species of bats and people.

Where do bats live?

The bats occupy ecological niches in all habitats, and are present on all continents except for Antarctica. Their nocturnal habits allow them to take refuge in caves, burrows, trees or even human buildings, as long as they get a dark and peaceful space in which to rest.

Some species are solitary, while others tend to cluster in colonies of up to thousands or millions of individuals. 7% of the world’s bat species are found in Australia, but being highly migratory species, they may well have come from other geographies.

What do bats eat?

bat feeding what they eat
Some bats feed on pollen or nectar from flowers.

Around the 70% of bats eat insects or other arthropods (spiders, centipedes, scorpions), which they hunt during their night flights.

The remaining percentage may have eating habits as diverse as their very diverse morphologies and physiology: some species are herbivorous (among them, some are frugivorous and others feed on pollen, nectar and leaves), while others they go to the carrion and others are able to hunt small fish, reptiles and rodents. There are also omnivorous species, which feed as the opportunity presents itself.

For its part, blood-sucking species, known as “vampires,” possess specialized fangs to make small cuts in livestock and other domestic and non-domestic animals (seals, guanacos, even toads), and thus nourish themselves with the portion of blood that emanates, thanks to an anticoagulant that they have in their saliva.

How do bats reproduce?

reproduction bat
Bats usually have one or two young per birth.

Like all mammals, the reproduction of bats occurs in sexual and viviparous terms, with very varied mating systems depending on the species. In general, they usually reach sexual maturity around one year of life, and present complex courtship dynamics, depending on whether they are species that lead a gregarious life (forming families or colonies), or whether they are mostly solitary individuals.

Reproduction usually occurs on a seasonal basis, especially at latitudes where hibernation is necessary, and the duration of gestation can range from 40 days to 10 months.

Some species can lengthen gestation to avoid bad weather or shortage periods, or they can even store the male’s sperm for a more opportune time. Litters usually consist of one or two pups per birth, whose lactation begins a few minutes after birth.

How long do bats live?

The life expectancy of a bat varies by species, but their average longevity ranges from four to five years. Some larger species can exceed that number and live twenty to thirty years, depending on how benevolent the habitat conditions are.