Bats are mysterious little creatures. In many places around the world, people view bats as something terrifying. This “bats are scary” phenomenon became the backstory to the most globally recognized superhero—Batman, the swashbuckling, justice-seeking, vigilante. Batman and the bat are both heroes of the night sky.
Unlike the fictional superhero, bats are real nighttime warriors. Their “superpowers” and predatory skills benefit humankind immensely. Bats are nocturnal; humans and bats are both awake and active, just before sunset. Yet, while we sleep, bats hunt insects and moths. Their nightly hunts serve as a natural pesticide, saving farmers billions of dollars each year. Bats eat mosquitos, which can carry diseases dangerous to humans, so their hunts help to keep us healthy. Bats eat mosquitos, and because mosquitos carry many diseases that are dangerous to humans, their hunts help to keep us healthy. And these benefits just scratch the surface.
Except for rodents, there are more types of bats than any other mammal. While most bats in the United States eat insects, other bats spend their nights pollinating plants and fruits. You can thank them for making many of your meals possible. Some bats eat fruits and are critical to regrowth of tropical forests by dispersing the fruit seeds. Other bats fish for their meals while a few eat scorpions and other unexpected delicacies. The world’s smallest mammal is the adorable bumblebee bat.
Bat species across the globe face threats to their populations. Bats have natural predators, but humans are their biggest threat. In some places, people eat bats; they overhunt in these areas driving some species near extinction. In North America, millions of bats die each year from White-nose syndrome, a bat-borne disease. Worldwide, the biggest threats to bats are loss of habitat and being killed. When we build and expand our cities and wind-power farms, we destroy bats and their habitats. Humans mistakenly view bats as a nuisance species and exterminate them from buildings. Wind farms kill millions of bats each year when they fly too close to a rotating blade.
Bat Conservation International is the world’s leading organization for the protection of this fantastic little mammals, and partners with NCKRI in their study and protection.
Some Bat Superpowers
Bats have two forms of vision
Bats have excellent vision; their eyes are very well adapted to see in the dark. Some bats also use their ears to “see” through a process called echolocation. They make a sound that bounces off objects and back to their ears, creating a mental image of an object or area. Cave-dwelling bats use echolocation to map and memorize their routes through the passageways. Once a bat knows its way through a cave, it will use echolocation as a reminder of the way. Echolocation is an energy-expensive skill, so bats use it mostly while hunting, to lock onto a single target while in flight.
Bats account for 20% of the global mammal population
They are the second most diverse mammal, with nearly 1400 species living across every continent except Antarctica. Contrary to common thought, not all bats live in caves, and not all caves are suitable habitat for bats. In the United States, only about 5% of caves have bats.
Bats are the only mammal that has wings and truly flies
The Brazilian free-tailed bat can fly at speeds close to 160 km/hour and reach heights of about 3,000 meters.
Bats are a keystone species
Bats are so crucial to the communities where they live that if removed, the ecosystem would be drastically changed or collapse. One reason is that many species of bats are pollinators. They pollinate over 500 species of trees and plants that we use for foods, medicines, and products.
Did you know, NCKRI is the first building in the world to have a bat roost as a part of its design?!
NCKRI partners with EduBat, a distance learning adventure that is all about bats.