Bats (Chiroptera) are unique animals. They are the only mammals that can fly. They spend their days in totally dark places- usually caves but also hollow trees. They hang upside down when resting. They come out to feed in the darkest part of the night. They are equipped with a unique system called echolocation that helps them to find their way in the dark. Echolocation is the emitting of sound waves that are reflected back to the emitter by the objects.
There are more than 1,200 species of bats that have been recorded. Each species is highly populous, numbering at least hundreds of millions. Bats are divided into two well defined orders the Megachiroptera and Microchiroptera. They vary in texture and colour. Bats are found mostly in the Tropics, though some species are found all over the world except the Polar Regions. They feed on insects, fruit, pollen and nectar. There are three species of vampire bats that are sanguivorous. They feed on blood.
FACT 1: Vampire bats are found only in the tropical areas of the Americas. The inhabit Central America, Mexico and Tropical South America. They are the only mammals whose diet consists only of blood.
FACT 2: The three species of vampire bats are the common vampire bat, the white winged vampire bat and the hairy legged vampire bat. The common vampire bat inhabits agricultural land. It feeds on the blood of cattle, horses, pigs and chicken. The even take a hearty swig of human blood. The white winged and hairy legged vampire bats live in intact forest areas. They drink the blood of birds, reptiles and other warm blooded forest animals.
FACT 3: The common vampire bat does not have a tail. It is between 7 and 9 cm long. The weight varies according to feeding A 60 gram bat can double its weight in one feeding.
FACT 4: The common vampire bat has short fur ranging from brown to reddish orange. They have long pointed wings.
FACT 5: A special feature of this vampire bat is its long pointed thumb. The thumb makes the bat very agile. It can leap about with frog like movements. It is the only bat capable for switching to flight mode from the ground. Using its thumb it makes a one meter leap into the air, spreads its wings and is off!
FACT 6: Like all members of the species the vampire bats use echolocation for orientation. They detect their prey by means of the heat sensors located on the face. Once the prey is identified they land close to it and hop or crawl up to the sleeping animal or human.
FACT 7: The diet of vampire bats is entirely liquid. So they have very few teeth. The few teeth they have are razor sharp. The heat sensor on their noses identifies the spot on the prey’s skin under which warm blood is flowing. The bat then makes a small incision in the skin using its teeth. As the blood flows out they lap it up with their tongues. They feed for about 30 minutes, but the amount of blood removed is not enough to harm the prey.
FACT 8: There is a strong anticoagulant present in the saliva of the vampire bat’ this prevents the blood from clotting.
FACT 9: Bats live in large colonies with a highly evolved social structure. In most cases females give birth to one offspring at a time. Young bats spend the first three months of life clinging to their mothers, even while the mother is in flight. All their nutrition comes from their mother’s milk.
FACT 10: Though the bites and sanguivorous activities of the vampire bats are not at all harmful to their prey, bats are considered pests. This is because the can transmit rabies and also because the bite wounds can become egg-laying sites for parasites.