Today’s Factismal: One in every five mammals is a bat.
It would be hard to find a mammal that gets less respect than the bat. Feared, reviled, unfairly labeled – and those are the good parts! And yet, the more than 1,200 species of bat are an essential part of the food chain.
Most bats (about 900 species) are insectivores that delight in eating flying bugs such as mosquitoes, gnats, and other noxious critters. And all but a few of the rest (about 300 species) are fugivores that eat fruit, nectar, or pollen. Among the remaining 200 species or so are oddballs such as bats that eat fish (194 species), bats that eat birds (a dozen species), and bats that eat other bats (two species).
The thing to focus on with bats is the word “eats”. All bats have a voracious appetite; flying is a strenuous business that requires lots of calories. As a result, bats will typically eat about 1/3 of their bodyweight each day. To put that into perspective, a colony of 1,000 insectivorous bats will eat four tons of mosquitoes each year.And fugivorous bats are no less hungry; they’ll munch on and pollinate hundreds of plants such as coconut palms, bananas, peaches, figs, mangoes, cloves, chocolate, balsa, and agave cacti each night. All told, more than 150 different types of plants rely on bats to propagate. And in the rainforest, 90% of the plants rely on bats!
Though they may all have huge appetites, bats range widely in size, from the tiny bumblebee bat (a contender for the world’s smallest mammal) to the giant golden-crowned flying fox (with a five-foot wingspan and four pounds of fruit munching muscle). Not surprisingly, most of the smaller, nimbler bats prefer to feast on flying insects whereas the larger bats prefer the easier prey of hanging fruit.
If you’d like to learn more about bats and how you can help them thrive, then why not visit Bat Detective?