5 Facts About Bats: Why They're More Fascinating than Frightening

5 Facts About Bats: Why They're More Fascinating than Frightening

Oct 31, 2014|Natural HistoryTraveler Resources| by administrator

Rejoice, it's Halloween! And while it may be fun to decorate your house with spooky bat cutouts or dress in your best Count Dracula costume, it's important to know some basic facts about the misunderstood mammal that is annually associated with all things creepy and scary. So the next time you think of these furry, fanged creatures when you hear the Count's classic, evil phrase, "I vant to suck your blood," remember that in reality, they're not the leechlike creatures many people identify them as. Here are five reasons why:

1. Bats don't prey on humans.

Out of more than 1,000 bat species, only three feed on the blood of animals. Found exclusively in Central and South America, the common vampire bat is the only one that feeds on livestock, while the hairy-legged vampire bat and the white-winged vampire bat typically feed on birds. Other bat species are known to feed on fish, frogs and lizards, but 70 percent of all bats have a diet that consists of insects. Of the insectivores, they may not feast on blood, but some are known to feast on bloodsuckers: Some bats can consume hundreds of mosquitoes in a single hour! Other bats prefer fruits, pollen and nectar, and bats can act as important pollinators for night-blooming plants.

2. They're the only mammals that can fly. 

Despite the belief of some that they're birds, flying rodents or don't identify as animals at all, bats are, indeed, mammals. And while it is understood that flying squirrels, gliding possums and colugos possess some aerial abilities, bats are the only type of mammal that can sustain their flight for longer period of time.

3. You are more dangerous to bats than they are to you.

Due to habitat loss of rainforest, cave and nesting area destruction and blockage, bats are an endangered species. Other threats are pollutants, fear that may lead people to harm them when they come in contact and disease, most notably the White-nose Syndrome, which is caused by a fungus and has killed more than 6 million bats to date, according to savebats.org. Bats are significant components of the ecosystems they inhabit, and this is why it's crucial to make conservation efforts, such as with the awareness, education and researched-oriented Bat Program at Tirimbina near Selva Verde.

4. They are one of the few mammals that use echolocation to navigate and catch prey.

Although they are not blind, bats rely on distance and echo frequency of sound waves, similar to sonar, to hunt and locate flying insects at night.

5. Your chances of contracting a disease from bats are slim.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports it is rare for more than one or two people to be  infected with rabies annually. Only six percent of bats have been found to have rabies, but in their natural setting, most bats do not carry the fatal disease nor are they known to attack humans. In fact, it is more likely to die of a dog attack or bee sting than by interaction with bats. Even the character Bruce Wayne, more commonly known as Batman, had a childhood phobia of bats, which led him to choose this animal as his symbol to invoke fear in his enemies. But if the Dark Knight and inhabitants of Gotham City knew more about these harmless creatures, perhaps this famed superhero would have existed in a completely different form.

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