There are many misconceptions about bats, but truth is, they are extremely useful and beneficial for any ecosystem. Check these facts and tell us: did you know this about bats?
Por Dilly Hoyt
The Mayans believed that they were the gatekeepers of the underworld, while the Egyptians believed that they could cure a myriad of diseases, however, in recent years our perceptions of bats are largely negative but are they with good reason?
Although most people have never encountered a bat up close, if you pay careful attention at night, you’ll find that they’re everywhere! In fact, with over 1300 species and counting, bats represent 20% of all mammal species.
Here are 4 facts and myths about bats- can you guess which are true and which are false?
All bats drink blood
It turns out that only 3 species’ diet consists of blood, the rest eat insects, nectar, fruit or vertebrates such as birds, frogs or even other bats! Besides, even the bats that consume blood rarely ever approach humans- their primary source of blood is from livestock.
All bats have rabies
In actuality, less than 0.5% of all bats have rabies, and even then, it is very unlikely that you’ll come into close contact with them since they are naturally extremely shy creatures. If you’re still worried about contracting rabies from a bat, the World Health Organization released a statement saying that 99% of rabies cases are caused by dogs!
Bats have terrible eyesight
Spix’s disc-winged bat (Thyroptera tricolor) in their roost within a heliconia leaf, Costa Rica © Zeltia Lopez
Despite the saying ‘as blind as a bat’, their vision is good- in fact, according to the executive director of the Organization for Bat Conservation, some larger bat species have vision three times better than our own! In addition to perfectly functioning eyes, some bats have another trick up their sleeve: echolocation. This is the use of sound waves emitted and received by bats in order to communicate with one another, to detect obstacles and to source food and water in their environment.
Without bats, we wouldn’t have tequila
Three brown tent-making bats (Uroderma bilobatum) in Pico Bonito, Honduras © Zeltia Lopez
Bats are the sole pollinators of the agave- the plant used to make tequila- without their assistance, our lives would be a little less... merry. Worldwide, over 500 species of flowers in at least 67 plant families rely on bats as their major or exclusive pollinators (including the cacao, guava and banana plants!)
If this isn’t enough to convince you to learn to love bats, you also must know that they are incredibly important for our ecosystems. They are crucial for the health of natural habitats; dispersing the seeds of fruit and controlling all kinds of pests. To give you an idea, the little brown bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes an hour!
Cover Photo: @tessagrace11
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