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Published:January 24th, 2008 16:36 EST
Batty About Bats!

Batty About Bats!

By Natasha Kalafatis

Bat (n): nocturnal mouse-like animal with forelimbs modified to form membranous wings and anatomical adaptations for echolocation by which they navigate.

A bat, contrary to popular belief (and as hard as it may seem), is not a flying mouse, fox, or any sort of bird. It is, however, the only mammal that can fly naturally (animals such as the sugar glider, flying squirrels, or gliding possums that are said to be flyers can only glide for a limited period of time).

There are estimated to be about 1,100 species of bats around the world. Most of them feed on fruits, like the Dawn Bat (Eonycteris spelaea), and insects, such as the Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus). Only three species sustain themselves with blood - one known as the Vampire Bat (Desmodus rotundus). Even so, none of these species attack humans for food; they are known to feed on fish, small birds, and even other bats.

Most bats use echo-location to locate their prey in the dark. They produce sounds that reflect off surrounding objects with faint echoes. This provides an accurate picture of the environment for the bat. But microbats, such as Phyllostomis stenops, use their noses to identify where their food sources are. They, along with other small bats, are heavily reliant on pollinators.

Due to the fact that bats are the slowest reproducing animals on earth, their populations are declining; and half the bats in the U.S. are listed as rare, threatened, or endangered.

You may not be that batty about bats... but after reading this, you know that you should be!