October 1 – Bat Month

Today’s factismal: Chirp for National Bat Appreciation Month !

People love October. How do I know? That’s easy – there are over 121 different groups that have decided that October is “their month”. That’s why October is claimed for causes as diverse as National Pork Month (“the other white meat”) to Go Hog Wild – National Eat Country Ham Month (“the other, other white meat”) to National Hispanic Heritage Month (“Es Octubre!”) to National Cookie Month (and that’s good enough for me!) to National Sarcasm Month (really?). But perhaps the coolest celebration this month is National c(Nana-nana-nana-nana Bat Month!).

Spectacled bats in Australia are frugivores

Spectacled bats in Australia are frugivores (My camera)

It may seem odd to honor an animal that is so widely despised, but as is often the case, the reputation of the bat says more about the folks who fear it than it does about the animal itself. Let’s start with the fact that one out of every five mammals is a bat; obviously, these critters are doing something right! They have diversified into 1,200 species. About 900 of those are insectivores with amazingly keen hearing that they use to find and eat mosquitoes, gnats, and other noxious critters. Another 300 species that 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 Ghost Bat of Australia and the Spectral Bat of Mexico and South America). Not surprisingly, the smaller the bat, the more likely it is to prey on small nimble things (like insects) instead of big, slow things (like fruit).

The bublebee bat, a contender for the world's smallest mammal (Image courtesy SciTechDaily)

The bublebee bat, a contender for the world’s smallest mammal (Image courtesy SciTechDaily)

No matter what bats eat, you can be sure that they eat a lot of it; it takes a lot of energy to fly about! A typical bats will eat about 1/3 of its body weight 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!

Even though bats are a vital part of our ecology, we still don’t know a lot about these critters – and that’s where you come in! Over at Bat Detective, you can learn more about these amazing mammals and find out how you can help scientists discover even more nifty things For more information, wing over to:
http://www.batdetective.org/

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