Bats Need Heroes

little brown bat removed from a home

Little brown bat removed from a pantry

Vesper bats found roosting on homes

big brown bat

Big Brown Bat, Epesticus fuscus

eastern red bat using its uropatagium for warmth/camoflage

Eastern red bat, Lasiurus borealis, using its tail as a blanket

Stripe-headed round-eared bat (Tonatia saurophila) and White-throated round-eared bat (Lophostoma silvicolum)

Stripe-headed round-eared bat, Tonatia saurophila, and White-throated round-eared bat, Lophostoma silvicolum

Guano containing seeds left on glove after handling a small fruit bat

Seeds in guano left in glove by a small fruit bat during handling

bat concealed in a leaf tent

A tent-making bat, Uroderma bilobatum

Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas

Mexican free-tailed bats, Tadarida brasiliensis, exiting the Congress Avenue bridge in Austin, Texas

Common vampire bat, Desmodus rotundus

Assistant Producer Rotunda is named after Desmodus rotundus, the common vampire bat

Derek’s Field Notes

Common Name: Bats!

Order: Chiroptera (“hand wing”)

Speaking generally, not all powers in all bats (1400+ species), but there are a few species which are better studied than others and some of those abilities can probably be found in other species too


Flight (super strength, agility, speed)

Hands are wings: reduced index finger, but similar dexterity

Patagium is skin and can similarly heal very well from small tears

Each bat has a unique “wing print”

Some bats use uropatagium to scoop prey or as a third wing

Can pluck a spider from its web without getting captured or do backflips to catch insects in flight

Flip upside down to land

They can fly with a pup that weighs a third of their body weight

Fastest animal on planet (Mexican free-tailed 160 kilometres per hour aka 100 mph - have radiators to dissipate heat, technically extremophiles due to high ammonia in caves)

Bats are basically running a fever constantly during flight

Super Metabolism/Appetite

Consuming over half their body weight a night

High volume, low processing strategy (lots of guano!)

Nectar feeding bats can convert/use sugar from nectar into energy within 20minutes of ingesting

Some fruit bats do not seem to be able to get drunk, they process ethanol without toxicity

Can also slow their metabolism way down during torpor - essentially becoming cold blooded (vulnerable to disturbance during this time)


Tied to wing movements as a “free action”

Extremely loud, muscles in ears flex to prevent deafening themselves when calling

Each species has distinct call frequencies like bird songs (some also sing to attract mates, or recruit their friends to new roosts)

End of The Dark Knight or the Detective Vision in Arkham games

Superfast twitch muscles allow for a “terminal buzz”, fasted mammalian muscles, emit hundreds of short calls

Bats also eavesdrop on other echolocation calls to find optimal foraging spaces

Most bat echolocation is inaudible to humans (I will have to splice in a clip)

Some bats (and insects) are capable of “jamming” other bats

Many echolocate through their nose, similar to humming (one genus clicks their tongues)

Humans can learn to echolocate

Other Senses

Some also have a great sense of smell for locating food

Not blind, vision comparable to a dog or rat for smaller species which echolocate, vision comparable to a cat for flying foxes

Vision is trusted for longer distance navigation as echolocation attenuates rapidly (bats may memorize an route or area and echolocate less while commuting)

Some bats can see polarized light (Myotis myotis, likely others)

Magnetic orientation has been found in Big Brown Bat (likely others)

Vampire bats also have heat sensing in their nose

Stealth and Surveillence

Some bats get around eared insects by echolocating at different frequencies (very low or high) or by gleaning (stealth mode)

Trachops aka the fringe-lipped bat specializes in hunting frogs and finds them when the males call for mates

Trachops can be trained to associate other sounds with food -

Singing and Dancing

Many male bats sing to attract a mate

Some produce fragrances - glands located on shoulders, head, wings, or back - and then they dance to waft the odors around

Lekking behavior in some species, such as the hammerheaded bat which honks

Extreme Longevity

Record holder is Brandts Myotis at +41 years old (teleomeres in Myotis may be exceptional)

Flying foxes can live into their thirties

Twenty is probably not an uncommon lifespan for a bat

Poison Immunity

Several species have adapted to hunting scorpions


Vampire bats produce venom

One fruit bat has been found to lactate for all sexes

A few bats can “skunk” and produce a foul odor when handled

Book recommendations

Altringham, John D. Bats From Evolution to Conservation. 2nd Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.


Renal function and its relation to the ecology of the vampire bat, Desmodus rotundus

Fewer bats carry rabies than thought

Naturally Acquired Rabies Virus Infections in Wild-Caught Bats

Human Rabies and Bat Bites

Transmissible vaccines for vampire bat rabies

Falling with Style: Bats Perform Complex Aerial Rotations by Adjusting Wing Inertia

Bat Flight VS Bird Flight

The Aerodynamic Cost of Head Morphology in Bats: Maybe Not as Bad as It Seems

Body lift, drag and power are relatively higher in large-eared than in small-eared bat species

Bats' hairs are 'airspeed sensor'

Tiny muscles help bats fine-tune flight

Bats in Flight Reveal Unexpected Aerodynamics

Flapping Tail Membrane in Bats Produces Potentially Important Thrust during Horizontal Takeoffs and Very Slow Flight

Aerial-hawking bats adjust their use of space to the lunar cycle

An Aerial-Hawking Bat Uses Stealth Echolocation to Counter Moth Hearing

A whispering bat that screams: bimodal switch of foraging guild from gleaning to aerial hawking in the desert long-eared bat

The adaptive function of tiger moth clicks against echolocating bats: an experimental and synthetic approach

How birds breath with their butts

Team offers first look at how bats land (w/Video)

What to do if you've found a bat

Biomechanical, Respiratory and Cardiovascular Adaptations of Bats and the Case of the Small Community of Bats in Chile

Cardiovascular and respiratory adaptations

Discover of Echolocation

Lunar phobia in bats and its ecological correlates: A meta-analysis

Dark Matters: The Effects of Artificial Lighting on Bats

Anthropogenic noise alters bat activity levels and echolocation calls

Foraging bats avoid noise

Big brown bat species profile

Morphological Evidence for Hybridization in the Sister Species Myotis myotis and Myotis oxygnathus (Chiroptera: Vespertilionidae) in the Carpathian Basin

Recurrent replacement of mtDNA and cryptic hybridization between two sibling bat species Myotis myotis and Myotis blythii

Field Identification of Myotis yumanensis and Myotis lucifugus: A Morphological Evaluation

Is That A Lark I Hear? A Nightingale? Surprise! It's A Bat

Bat serenades - Complex courtship songs of the sac-winged bat (Saccopteryx bilineata)

Bats, Bacteria, and Bat Smell: Sex-Specific Diversity of Microbes in a Sexually Selected Scent Organ

Chapin’s free-tailed bat portrait by Merlin Tuttle

Hunting bats rely on 'bag of chips effect'

Bats jam each other's signals just like humans jam cell phones

Mass Effect --- Creating the Krogan

The impact of artificial light at night on nocturnal insects: A review and synthesis

Bat-friendly street lights for Worcestershire crossing

Spotted bat audible echolocation sound clip

The evolution of anti-bat sensory illusions in moths

Tiger moth jams bat sonar

Primitive Early Eocene bat from Wyoming and the evolution of flight and echolocation

Click-based echolocation in bats: not so primitive after all

Daniel Kish episode of This American Life

Whales, Dolphins, and Sound

Echolocation episode of In Our Time by BBC Radio 4

It's not black or white—on the range of vision and echolocation in echolocating bats

Spectacled flying fox portrait

Bat eyes have ultraviolet-sensitive cone photoreceptors

Ultraviolet vision in a bat

Fruit Bats Are Not 'Blind As A Bat'

A functional role of the sky’s polarization pattern for orientation in the greater mouse-eared bat

Bats love to pollinate

Seed Dispersal Among Three Different Vegetation Communities in the Huasteca Region, Mexico, Analyzed from Bat Feces

Seed Dispersal by Bats and Birds in Forest and Disturbed Habitats of Chiapas, Mexico

Comparative Intestinal Histomorphology of Five Species of Phyllostomid Bats (Phyllostomidae, Microchiroptera): Ecomorphological Relations with Alimentary Habits (pdf)

Not in my backyard? How to live alongside flying-foxes in urban Australia

Blood Buddies episode of RadioLab

The Case For Vampire Bats by NPR's Skunkbear

Hammer-headed fruit bat species profile

Mexican free-tailed bat species profile

Communal Nursing in Mexican Free-Tailed Bat Maternity Colonies

Antiphonal calling allows individual discrimination in white-winged vampire bats

Classification of human breathing sounds by the common vampire bat, Desmodus rotundus


Bat noseleaf model: Echolocation function, design considerations, and experimental verification

What is White Nose Syndrome?

This Podcast Will Kill You episode about White Nose Syndrome

White Nose Syndrome spread map

Caught 'napping': First direct evidence of migratory hoary bats hibernating


The Batman and the Bridge Builder by 99 Percent Invisible

Merlin Tuttle's Bat Portraits

Bat Conservation International FAQ on Bat Houses

Bat Conservation and Management free bat house manuals

Selecting a Quality Bat House

Avoiding a conservation pitfall: Considering the risks of unsuitably hot bat boxes

Reducing bat fatalities at wind facilities while improving the economic efficiency of operational mitigation

Barotrauma is a significant cause of bat fatalities at wind turbines

Bats and Wind Energy

The Incredible Milk-producing Male Bat

Bats and Robins

The National Geographic Story, “Call of the Bloom”

Woolly bat trains Merlin Tuttle

Bats in Homes and Buildings

A New Field Record for Bat Longevity

Growing old, yet staying young: The role of telomeres in bats’ exceptional longevity

Bats And Tequila: A Once Boo-tiful Relationship Cursed By Growing Demands

Restoring Agave for Nectar-feeding Bats

Bats and the Disappearing Wild Bananas

Wound healing in the flight membranes of big brown bats

Long-term memory in bats

Bats and frogs

Tropical bat as mammalian model for skin carotenoid metabolism

Honudran white bats

Spotted bat portrait

Species Spotlight: Hoary Bat

Pallid bat catching scorpion

Arizona bark scorpion venom resistance in the pallid bat, Antrozous pallidus

Present and Potential Future Distribution of Common Vampire Bats in the Americas and the Associated Risk to Cattle