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The bat

Flying mammals

Bats are the only mammals capable of actual flight and they can reach speeds of up to 31mph (50 kilometers) per hour! Chiroptera, the name of the order to which bats belong, means “wing made from a hand”. Bat wings, however, whose shape varies from species to species, are in fact made from a thin membrane of skin that stretches from the shoulder and is supported by the arm, the forearm and five very long fingers.

Born between heaven and earth

In several bat species, the mother gives birth in her usual position – hanging upside down. Her baby has to perform dangerous gymnastics manoeuvers as soon as it is born, clinging tightly to the mother’s fur to avoid falling on its head! The Australian flying fox gives birth this way after a gestation period of 6 months. The baby flying fox does not loosen its grip on its mother for 2 weeks, until it is able to fly on its own…

A sophisticated sonar

Bats sleep during the day, hanging upside down in caves, trees or deserted buildings. At night, they hunt for food in the dark, emitting high-frequency waves that are invisible and imperceptible to us. Those waves bounce off the surrounding objects, plants, and animals. The echo, which is perceived by the bats’ very sensitive hearing, tells them the distance between a prey or an obstacle and them. This type of sonar, also used by dolphins, is called echolocation.

Most bat species are insectivorous and play a very important role in controlling the population of some insects . One bat can eat up to 100 mosquitoes in an hour…

Some species, however, have unusual tastes in food...

Blood on the menu

Three bat species, including the vampire bat, have the particularity of feeding on animal’s blood. Vampire bats only live in Central and South America. Using their knife-sharp upper incisors, they pierce the skin of their victims and lap up the blood that flows from the wound. Unlike other bats, the vampire bats can walk, run, and even jump - essential movements when tracking down a prey.