Na na na na na na na na… Bat!
1. They are the only mammals who can genuinely fly.
This is done thanks to their webbed wings which allow them to achieve flight by flapping their extended digits. All other mammals you might see in the sky like possums, colugos and even flying squirrels are not actually flying – they are just gliding.
2. There are a lot of them.
In fact, the more than 1,000 species of bat account for almost a quarter of all mammal species in the world. This makes Chiroptera (fancy name for bats) the second largest mammalian order after rodents.
3. The smallest one is called the bumblebee bat.
Also referred to as the Kitti’s hog-nosed bat, this tiny little critter measures only 1 – 1.3 inches (30 to 33 mm) head to tail. It also weighs around 0.07 oz (2 g). At this size, it’s not only the smallest bat, but one of the tiniest mammals overall.
4. The largest ones are called flying foxes.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, most of the giant species of bat belong to the genus Pteropus. Among them Preropus Vampyrus (also known as the large flying fox, the kalang or the Malaysian flying fox) is reportedly the largest species of bat in this genus. It has a wingspan which can reach up to 5 ft (1.5 m). Another giant species of bat which actually belongs to a different genus called Acerodon is the golden-crowned flying fox. It is usually considered to be larger than the flying fox with a wingspan reaching 6 ft (1.8 m).
5. They don’t all use echolocation.
Bats are famous for using this rare sense in order to feel the world around them but not all species of bats have it. Generally, this is a trait reserved for the smaller bats. They tend to live in very large colonies so they need this sense in order to move around properly as well as for hunting small insects. Megabats don’t usually posses this sense but it’s fine with them since they mostly eat fruit anyway and have good eyesight.
6. They eat a lot of insects (those that eat insects, of course).
One single bat can eat up to 1,000 insects in just one hour. Even so, don’t expect to see any fat bats anytime soon. They have an incredibly fast metabolism.
7. Vampire bats do exist.
There are actually three species of bat that feed only on blood. These animals have been given quite a fearsome reputation thanks to vampire stories, but perhaps it is not completely warranted. The biggest danger in getting bit by one of them is rabies. Although this is possible and cases have been documented, it is unlikely – less than 1% of bats have rabies and they usually prefer livestock anyway. On the other hand, medical research into vampire bats has yielded some positive benefits thanks to their special saliva which acts as an anticoagulant and can break down blood clots.
8. They live for a long time.
Typically, small mammals do not have a large lifespan. Rodents the size of bats, for example, only live for a few years. However, it is not unusual for certain bat species to live up to 40 years.
9. Bracken Cave in Texas is home to the largest colony of bats in the world.
Between 20 and 40 million Mexican Free-tailed bats live here between March and October, constituting the largest concentration of mammals in the world. You would think that living next to this massive colony would be scary or dangerous, but farmers are quite happy with the situation. Those bats consume several tons of insects…every night. Without the colony, those insects would cause a lot of damage to crops in the area.
10. Bat droppings are very valuable.
Commonly referred to as guano, their droppings are incredibly rich in nitrogen and phosphorous. This makes guano a very potent (and valuable) fertilizer.