Bats are fascinating animals that seem to invoke both fear and wonder alike. They have the distinction of being the only mammal that can fly, though they are not birds and don't have feathers. There are approximately 1,000 species of bats in the world, with almost 50 found in North America.
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There are two types of bats in the world: the large bats (Megachiroptera), also called flying foxes, and small bats (Microchiroptera) that we're used to seeing fly at dusk. The largest bat has a wingspan of six feet, while the smallest has a body less than one inch long.Their physical features are quite diverse, as well. Some have long fur with colours like red, yellow, black or white. Some have huge ears, wide eyes, pink wings and other unique attributes.
Most species live in tropical forests, but according to Bat Conservation International, they can be found everywhere except very harsh deserts and polar habitats.
Because bats are mammals, they feed their young milk. Adult bats have various diets. Most eat insects like mosquitoes, but some eat fruit, nectar or smaller animals. And yes, a very few do drink blood. Almost all of the species in North America eat insects, though there are three species in the southwest United States that drink nectar.
Bats have an amazing sense of hearing, which makes up for most bats' poor eyesight. They use their hearing to navigate. Bats emit noises that echo off of objects. Each echo gives the bat information about the object, including where it is, how big it is and even whether it's hard or soft. Echolocation allows bats to hunt for flying insects and other food.
Females usually have just one baby, called a pup. Groups of females raise their young together in small colonies. Bats live in shelters like caves, animal burrows, eaves and buildings. When it gets cold in some regions, bats either migrate or hibernate. Mating takes place in the fall, before hibernation or migration, and the young are born in the spring. Their lifespan is approximately 30 years.
• Insect-eating bats can consume about 300 bugs each hour. • Fruit- and nectar-eating bats help pollinate plants. • Bat droppings, called guano, is an excellent fertiliser. • Bat wings are very similar to human hands, except their fingers are very, very long. • Even though they use echolocation, bats are not blind.
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