There are more than a thousand species of bats – about one-fifth of all mammal species
– and their variety is incredible. They range from the world's
smallest mammal, the tiny bumblebee bat that weighs less than a penny, to
giant flying foxes with six-foot wingspans. Except for the most extreme
desert and polar regions, bats have lived in almost every habitat on Earth
since the age of the dinosaurs. But today, they face many
threats. Learn more about the efforts of animal
conservation for these vital members of the animal kingdom.
Like the Zoo's Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, most bats communicate and
navigate with high-frequency sounds. They hunt insects and avoid collisions
at night by sending out "echolocation" beeps and analyzing the echoes that
come bouncing back. The large bats at the Zoo, however, are
among those species with large eyes and good vision that are active during
Photo by Jackie Curts
Don't Be Afraid!
Centuries of myths and misinformation about bats still generate
fear in people. But once you learn about bats, you also learn to
appreciate how important they are to nature and to the world's economies.
Unfortunately, people who still fear bats can threaten them and their habitats around the world,
and bat populations are declining almost everywhere.
Bats are Good
without bats, nature could be in real trouble. They help
control pests and are vital pollinators and seed-dispersers for countless
plants. Yet these wonderfully diverse and beneficial creatures are among the
least studied and most misunderstood of animals.
Bats are, for their size, the slowest reproducing mammals on earth. On
average, mother bats rear only one young per year, and some do not give
birth until they are two or more years old. Exceptionally long-lived, there
is a record of a bat that survived in the wild for 41 years, and bats of a
number of species live 15 to 20 years or more. Field mice, by contrast,
rarely live beyond 3 to 4 years.
In seasonal climates like Indiana's, cold winters force bats to migrate
or hibernate. Most travel less than 300 miles to find a suitable
cave or abandoned mine, where they remain for up to six months
or more, surviving on stored fat. However,
several species travel from as
far north as Canada to the Gulf Coast states or Mexico for the
Photo by Kerrie Best