Types of Bats and How to Easily Identify Them
There are literally over 1300 different bat species in the world, and they comprise a quarter of all mammals. It’s important to know the different types of bats to better understand the distinct roles they play in the environment.
What Are Bats?
Bats are the only mammals that can fly. Some mammals like flying squirrels actually glide, while bats can truly take to the air. Bats account for a majority of the world’s mammal population and can be found everywhere in the world except for the very cold regions of the Arctic and Antarctica.
These mammals can be categorized into two subgroups: megabats and microbats. Although the naming system can give an indication of the size of these bats, they are somewhat misnomers.
Microbats are not always small, and megabats are not always large. Instead, these groupings are determined based on physical and behavioral traits. All bats are grouped into eighteen different families, as well as into two distinct types based on their physical and behavioral traits.
What Are Megabats?
Megabats are primarily known as fruit bats because they eat mostly fruit. These bats use their large eyes and well-developed visual cortex to hunt for their prey. Unlike microbats, these bats have small ears and no tragus, making it impossible for them to track insects using the process of echolocation.
While there are some bats in this group, like the Egyptian fruit bat, that are exceptions to this rule, most megabats cannot use echolocation. These bats tend to be about six to forty centimeters in size. The smallest megabat, the common blossom bat, is actually smaller than many species of microbats.
What Are Microbats?
Microbats are more common that megabats, and are characterized by their ability to use echolocation to communicate, hunt, and move around in the dark. These bats generate sound waves by using their well-developed larynxes to then emit sounds through their noses or mouths.
These bats have large ears and a well-developed tragus. They have tails, which are absent in megabats, but lack underfur and a claw on their forelimbs.
Types of Bats
- Fruit Bats
These bats are found all over the world and are the most prominent species of megabats to be found. These bats are also known as flying foxes, with the most popular species to its credit. Species of fruit bats include the golden-capped fruit bat, the greater short-nosed fruit bat, and the Egyptian fruit bat.
- Bulldog Bats
Bulldog bats can be found in South America and the Caribbean, and are one of two species belonging to the genus Noctilio. These bats look just like bulldogs with their prominent cheek pouches and are also known as fisherman bats.
- Disc-winged Bats
These bats can be found in Central and South America and consist of five separate species. These bats have distinct suction cups on their thumbs and ankles which help them cling to smooth surfaces like the leaves of banana trees.
- False Vampire Bats
These bats have five species with four different genera. The ghost bat is the most popular and is native to Australia, with other species living in places like Central Africa and South Asia.
The ghost bat is highly threatened and has a pale gray-white appearance. Other species in this group include the greater false vampire bat, the lesser false vampire bat, and the heart-nosed bat.
- Free-Tailed Bats
These bats comprise one of the largest families of bats, including 100 distinct species. These bats have long tails and are some of the fastest flying in the world. The Mexican free-tailed bat, for example, can cruise at speeds of forty miles per hour.
- Kitti’s Hog-nosed Bats
These bats are found in Southeast Asia – most notably, in Thailand and Burma. These include some of the smallest bats in the world. Also known as the bumblebee bat, this bat family includes only one species. This bat is the world’s smallest mammal and has a pig-like snout. It is a vulnerable species and highly protected.
- Leaf-nosed Bats
Leaf-nosed bats are found in Central and South America and are a huge and diverse family of bats. With 192 species, the most popular members of this family include vampire bats like the white-winged vampire bat and the hairy-legged vampire bat. The spectral bat, also a member of this group, is the largest carnivorous bat in the world.
- Mouse-tailed bats
Mouse-tailed bats are six species of insectivorous bats, grouped together by their sharing of a long tail that is not connected to their wing membrane. Bats in this family include the lesser mouse-tailed bat and the greater mouse-tailed bat, among others.
Other Types of Bats
The list certainly does not end there. There are countless other bats in the world, including Mustached bats, Vesper bats, New Zealand Short-tailed bats, Sac-winged bats, Slit-faced bats, Smokey bats, Sucker-footed bats, and more.
The different species of bats in the world are classified into eighteen families and grouped into two types, depending on their physical and behavioral traits. Each bat plays a distinct role in the ecosystem, helping with pollination and to control insect populations.
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