You don’t often read these amazing facts about bats for kids especially if you’re no biologists. Bats are one of the most popular mammalian orders, and probably the most diverse. More than 1,110 species worldwide presents a matchless disparity on the mammalian theme and an extensive lessen in biology. Bats are the flying mammals that belong to the order of Chiroptera. The forelimbs offer webbed wings thereby making them the only mammals that are capable to take a true and sustained flight. There are certain other mammals that are known to glide rather than fly; some of these are gliding possums, colugos, and flying squirrels. Unlike birds, bats are not adept to flap their whole forelimbs rather they spread-out long digits. Of all mammalian species, bats represent 20% worldwide. More than 70% of bats are insectivores. Biologically, bats are considered to be significant contributors in pollinating flowers and dispersing fruit seeds. A good many number of plants are wholly dependent on plant species for the distribution of seeds. The smallest bat known as Kitti’s hog-nosed bat measuring at 29 – 34 mm (1.14 – 1.34 inches) in length, together with the wings measuring at 2 – 2.6 grams (0.07 – 0.09 oz) in mass. The largest bat ever recorded was giant golden crowned flying fox weighing around 1.6 kg (4 lb), along with a wingspan measuring at 1.7 meters (5 feet 7 inches).
One can observe exquisite illustrations in bats; reciprocal altruism, convergent evolution, optimal foraging, adaptive radiation, a compound interaction between population structure and behavior, arms race amidst the prey and predatory, and major biogeographical and macroecological principles, to name just a few standards. Apart from bats, rodents are the only mammalian creatures that have outstripped bats not in ecology but in numbers. There are around 2,227 rodent species worldwide. Bats are extensively distributed across every continent of the world, with Madagascar and Africa holding more than 200 species; around 300 species dwelling in the Central and South America, and Caribbean; almost the same numbers are present all throughout the Australasia and Southeast Asia. Because they can fly, bats often represent most or all of the extant mammals on isolated oceanic islands. More than 40 species are found in higher altitudes across North America and eastern and western Europe. Bats are also the inhabitants of many islands, nevertheless remote, they are regarded as the only native mammals. Bumblebee, one of the smallest bats, measures only 1.5 – 2.0 grams in mass. There is a considerable variation in shape and color of the bats. Many bats are admittedly rather drab; however, there are exceptions too such as painted bats which display cryptic and bright patterns thereby offering a natural camouflage while roosting in exposed trees—there are some that looks like fruits and flowers.
- The smallest of the bat species called Kitti’s hog-nosed bat measures around 29 – 34 mm (1.14 – 1.34 inch) together with the wings measuring 15 cm (5.91 inches) across, and weighs up to 2 – 2.6 grams (0.07 – 0.09 oz); while another species known as bumblebee bat weighs around 1.5 – 2.0 grams. The largest bats ever recorded was giant golden crowned flying fox bearing a wingspan of 1.7 meters (5 ft 7 in), and weighs around 1.6 kg (4 lb).
- Hammer-headed bat is one of the species that display a nose of enormous proportions. The males are known to hang in the trees adjacent to rivers to invite any passing by females for mating. One who possesses the most impressive calls deserves attention. This is specifically documented in lekking mammals, but is now being witnessed in bats.
- Here is another species that gives out the pheromones from the erectile crested of hair on its head. This is crested free-tailed bat (Chaercephon chapini). There are certain bats that serve as an important function in the echolocation; horseshoe bats, for example. However, the role of other species is yet to be determined, if indeed they have one!
- It was until recently that the two sub-orders were described; the Old World Fruit bats or flying foxes, and the Megachiroptera. Amongst these, the Megachiroptera is most diverse species. It follows that these two sub-orders have evolved from the common ancestors. According to the relevant evidences, the Old World Fruit bats seems to be the horseshoe bats bearing the most advanced and sophisticated echolocators.
- The niche that certain bats refer to as aerial, nocturnal hunters is a challenging one. It’s because of the bats flight that they face key physiological and anatomical restrictions; however, the rewards obvious in their success, are great.
- A proper evaluation of the aerodynamics of flapping flight promotes the relationship between the flight traits, wing morphology, and feeding ecology. One of the most advanced adaptations of bats is its ability to detect their prey in complete darkness using sound which is, of course, most interesting biological story ever told. It seems as if we are just beginning to comprehend the subtlety, complexity, and notable perpetual abilities of bats echolocation. Thanks to the Torpor ability of bats that retunes their body temperature well below the level needed for usual activity, thereby enables it to regulate it within fine limits.
- Brazilian free-tailed bats are found in colonies in caves numbering thousands of individuals in southern United States and Central America. Some of the species are solitary tree dwellers that hang in branches in the boreal forests. Hoary bat is one of them. These bats live in the underground burrows.
Molecular genetics rightly guide us to the evolutionary history of bats. Why did bats evolve? What is the origin of bats echolocation and flight?
Fossils and the Origin of Bats | Facts about Bats For Kids
Bats are unarguably the second largest mammalian order and are growing rapidly each year largely due to the splitting of extant species based on genetic evidence. The mammals have been classified into two major suborders namely; microbats megabats. The megabats are actually the Old World fruits that primarily rely on plants, fruits, pollen, nectar, and flowers. They can grow to a size ranges from 20 – 1,500 grams. These megabats predominantly exist in Indo-Australasia, tropical Asia, and Africa. However, microbats are known to occupy almost every continent except Antarctica. The microbats also exist in the isolated islands along with the megabats. In general, microbats are smaller in comparison to the macrobats and they will feed on insects and other arthropods. There is a general belief that bats are not well recognized by their fossil records possibly due to the shortage of jaws and the ratio of known extinct to extant species is low as compared to other mammals. Nonetheless, successful efforts have been made to discover almost 200 bats species. Fossils representing all the principal families have been found except Craseonycteridae and Rhinopomatidae. Many fossils, however, are too recent to be studied under the context of origin of bats, apart from the few that dates back to the Eocene. Do the earliest fossils guide us towards understanding bat evolution? The answer is surprisingly yes but little. The oldest fossil discovered in the Polecat Bench formation (Wyoming), Yellow Stone Park (USA), and Green River. These fossils are appeared to have been dated to the early Eocene 50 million years ago. After examining the fossilized wingscales of moths consumed by bats, recognizable pollen grains can be observed—a proof of where the moth took its last meal—ecology captured in stone! All these bats predating 45 million years ago resemble modern bats.
Why Did Bats Evolve? | Facts about Bats For Kids
The evolution of novel species is the result of the product of natural generation of casual genetic mutations and the forces of natural selection—often a reaction to an altering environment. This alteration implies a new food sources, new habitats, new predators, and new competitors. Once, bats were believed to have been evolving, the flowering plants underwent their initial phases of massive diversification. According to Miller (1981), the pollen appeared to prevail in the Cenomanian period some 95 – 100 million years ago.
Bats are the mammals that feed on variety of species including insects and arthropods. The pallid bats are known to feed on scorpions in the south-western United States. The fisherman bats feed on fiddler crabs. Many bats eat fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, nectar, pollen, rarely leaves, other bats, fruits and seeds, and finally blood. There are several bats that have specialized diets, but others, including numerous spear-nosed bats of South America, are adept to feed on vertebrates, fruits and insects. Wild bats preferably feed on flowers with an intact vexillum as it signifies a rich nectar source. Apart from echolocation, bats also rely on sight, smell, passive sound, and heat sensors to locate food. Many violet flowers are known to reflect ultra-violet light which bats can observe. The nectar feeding Glossophaga soricina was deemed to be rather more sensitive towards wavelengths down to 310 nm, well into the UV. Nectar and fruit-eating bats have been documented as the amazing examples of coevolution. The nectar feeding bats are best known for their long tongues. When not in use, the tongue rests in thoracic cavity at its base amid the heart and sternum, which is more likely to be a structure of ant-eating pangolins. Thanks to the long tongues, bats can feed from 80 – 90 mm long narrow corolla of the flowers of Centropagon nigricans. Apart from bats, no other animal has been known to visit these plants, making it the only pollinators. Some bats have evolved echolocations that are not easily heard by moths. Vampire bats are the only species that rely mostly on blood and they must have 25 ml blood meals in their daily diet to survive. Most of the bats are insectivorous; however, there are a good many number of these species that are carnivorous, flowers, nectar, and pollen-eaters. This much diversity of feeding habits is streamlined by a fine demonstration of variations in ecology, physiology, form, lengthy bristle tongue, the white-tent-makers, and record-breaking kidneys of vampire bats.