A bat looks somewhat like a mouse. At one time they were called a "flittermouse". This was because they were thought of as a flying mouse. Others thought of the mouse as a bird.
The bat is more closely related to primates. Bats can fly like a bird. But, they do not have feathers, build nests, or lay eggs. Bats are mammals. Their bodies are covered with fur. They are born live and not hatched from an egg.
There are almost 1,000 species of bats. They are different in size, color, body features, habitat and diet. They live in nearly every part of the world. The most unusual ones live in South and Central America. The most numbers are found in Africa.
Bats are fantastic fliers. They are able to truly fly. Bats are the only mammals able to have powered flight.
A bat's body is made for flight. The neck is short, the chest is large and the stomach is narrow. In order to fly a body must have a wide, thin surface. It also needs the power to push through the air.
This thin surface we call an airfoil in flight terms. The power to push we call propulsion. In a bat it is the wings that are both.
The wings of a bat are made of bones like those bones in our arms and hands. The long arm bones and extra-long finger bones are covered with skin. This double layer of thin skin is called a membrane. This skin is so thin that you can see light through it.
The membrane covers the arm bones and finger bones to the sides of the body and legs. This makes an airfoil surface. Some bats have this membrane covering the legs and tail. The small thumbs are left free for climbing.
The membrane gives the wing a stiff edge like an airplane's. The #2 and #3 fingers helps to create the edge. The #3 finger makes the wing tip.
Bats that have the tail membrane use it to slow themselves down. Some bats use the tail as a pouch to catch insects.
Bats fly in a "rowing motion" through the air. Many bats may fold their wings on the upstroke. This helps to reduce air resistance. It is during the downstroke that both thrust and lift are made.
The large muscles give powerful wing strokes. This makes flight possible. Bats move their wings by using the large muscles in their backs and chests. Some of these muscles pull the wing up. Others bring them down.
The wings act like webbed hands. The bat can move its wings like we move our fingers. Bats fold one of their wings to steer and brake.
Many bats can hover in one place like hummingbirds and helicopters. Other bats enjoy gliding flight for short periods.
There are 2 main groups of bats:
Microbats is the larger bat group. These are found in the Americas and Asia, Europe, Africa, and Australia. In this group bats are smaller in size. They listen to echoes to find and hunt for their diet of insects.
Listening to echoes works like the radar in planes. The bat sends out beeps through the air. This hits an object and bounces back as echoes. The bat hears the echoes and its brain works out a sound picture.
The wing area of microbats is smaller than their body size. Their wings move fast helping them to change direction quickly. They hunt in their local area for insects.
Megabats are a smaller group of bats that live in tropical places like Africa, Asia, and Australia. These bats are larger in size with simple ears and large eyes. Their eyes look like dog eyes. They have very good vision and sense of smell. Their diet is nectar, pollen, and fruit.
The wing size is larger than their body size. Megabats seem to be slow. But their long narrow wings make them good travelers at night.
Bats live in barns, attics, and caves. They like anyplace that is cold and dark. They usually live in small groups. But their colony size can be in the 1,000's.
Most bats fly at night. Many eat half their weight in insects in one night. A little brown bat can eat 600 insects in an hour. A colony can eat 6,000 tons of insects in one year.
Tropical bats can transfer pollen as they fly from plant to plant. They digest bananas, mangoes, guavas, and berries in 20 minutes. The seeds of the fruit are dropped by the bats as they are flying. This reseeds large areas of land.
There are people who think that bats are dirty and evil. Bats are very clean and groom their wings and teeth daily. Some even believe that Count Dracula turns into a bat. This is not true. Bats are very helpful to man and our environment.
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