Our planet is home to a wide range of plants and animals, including mammals, rodents, insects, and more. Each of these beings has an important place in Mother Nature’s scheme of things.
For example, there’s one animal that is asleep when we are awake and vice-versa. What’s more, it can fly, though it has no feathers.
What animal is it, can you guess?
Well, it is the bat, the only mammal capable of actual flight. Worldwide, there are over 1,200 different species of bats, accounting for more than one-fifth of all mammal species.
Chiroptera, which means “hand wing” in Greek, is the scientific term for bats. That’s because bats have a thumb in addition to four lengthy fingers each joined by a thin layer of skin. They can swiftly change direction and catch mosquitoes midair because of their mobile joints and flexible skin membrane.
Bats come in two varieties: Microbats and Megabats. Microbats are nocturnal animals that prey on moth-like insects. Megabats consume fruit, nectar, and pollen. They have bigger eyes and a better sense of smell than Microbats, but smaller ears since they don’t echolocate.
When you hear the term “bat,” what springs to your mind?
Not a very pleasing image, most probably.
This is unfortunate because these little, gentle, and hard-working flying animals are actually highly good for the ecosystem. The bats start pollinating as soon as the sun goes down, the time when the birds and the bees are taking a break after a busy day. Bats are the primary or sole pollinators of more than 500 flower species across at least 67 different plant families. Many globally significant plants, both environmentally and commercially, are pollinated by bats. Without nectar-feeding bats, not only would our ecology suffer, but also our way of life.
Fruit bats are efficient seed dispersers because they can sometimes travel great distances to find food, especially in low density or in habitats that are separated from one another. Additionally, fruit-eating bats eat 50 to 250 percent of their body weight in fruit each night. Consequently, a lot of fruits are consumed in one night. Bats contribute to the health of caves by supplying vital nutrients in the form of guano, or “Bat Dropping,” which is a superior fertilizer than cow manure for fostering the development of communities of cave creatures.
Bats are advantageous because they consume insects, such as mosquitoes and pests like codling moths that harm fruit and nut crops. According to some research, the economic worth of bats for agriculture pest management exceeds $23 billion annually. They can ingest 1,200 mosquitoes in one hour and frequently eat their full weight in insects each night. The Center for Biological Diversity estimates that bats end up offering “nontoxic pest-control services totalling $3.7 billion to $53 billion each year”.
Despite being an important component of the environment, bats are frequently connected with death, darkness, and the paranormal in numerous myths and stories from different cultures across the world. They are definitely weird beings that resemble animals from a nightmare, given their part-animal-part-bird appearance. Do they truly deserve their evil reputation? They don’t. They must unquestionably be treated like other mammals.
Bats are blind? There’s a misconception that bats are blind. In fact, they have excellent vision and the advantage of echolocation, which allows them to fly and locate their next meal in the dark without risk. Another one is that these creatures suck human blood, which is almost entirely untrue. Of more than 1,100 species of bats, only three species are vampires. They are widespread in Central and South America, where cattle serve as their primary food source. A majority of other bats eat fruit, insects, or nectar.
Bats carry the rabies virus? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that just 6 percent of bats carry the rabies virus, which seldom affects humans. According to the World Health Organization, dogs cause up to 99 percent of all human rabies infections, accounting for an estimated 60,000 fatalities each year.
Bats have a slow rate of reproduction, with a majority of females giving birth to just one youngster per year. Because of this, bat species recover from population losses more slowly and with much difficulty than many other mammal species. It’s challenging to detect large drops in bat species until their position becomes critical. Major threats to the bat population are the loss of habitat, humans and diseases. Bats are among the victims of deforestation, which is a significant issue for everyone. According to Bat Conservation International, many bats are targeted by humans, whether out of superstition (believing that all bats are vampires) or for economic purposes (eating and selling bat meat). According to the Eco Health Alliance, if bat populations were to decline, a very serious threat given their growing susceptibility, up to 20 percent of all mammal species may become extinct worldwide.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature estimates that 5 percent of bats fall under the category of endangered species, while there’s no data on another 11 percent. Knowing the importance of bats helps us see how their absence may have a significant impact on all aspects of our lives. Awareness may help us know how to live in harmony with animals, especially those who are the opposite of humans in that they experience the world upside down, such as bats. Utilizing your newly-acquired knowledge about bats and encouraging others to do the same will go a long way in preserving bat species. By preserving their habitats and correcting misconceptions about them, we can aid bat populations. So, let’s treat them with the respect they deserve because their extinction will pose a threat to all of us.