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Sculptures by Phyllis Bone


Bats are creatures of mystery, emerging only at the dead of night in search of their next meal. But, despite what many people think, they are not all evil blood-suckers. In fact the vast majority of bats are extremely helpful to humans. They pollinate plants, disperse seeds, and feed on insect pests such as mosquitos. So if you think these elusive creatures deserve a little more respect, then read on...

Bats are so unique that they have been placed in their own order, the order Chiroptera, meaning "hand-wing". As the name implies, their thumb and four separate fingers are webbed with skin, forming the ribs of the wing. But what makes them unique among mammals is the fact that they can fly. They are the only flying mammal.
An insect-eating microbat from the museum
Bats are amazingly widespread, the approximately 925 species of living bats making up nearly a quarter of all known living mammal species 1. The order is broken down into two sub-orders; Megachiroptera, (the big bats, or megabats), and Microchiroptera, (the little bats or microbats). All the insect-eating bats are microbats, while the Old World megabats eat mainly fruit, giving them the common name fruitbats.

But the elusive reputation of bats stretches far beyond myth and legend and into the world of modern science. For the last twenty years, the origin and evolution of Chiroptera has been one of the most controversial topics in mammalian systematics. It is not yet agreed when bats arose relative to other mammals, or even whether megabats and microbats belong to the same order at all. Click here to view a cladogram showing the probable position of bats within the history of mammals.

What do bats look like?
Where do bats live?
What do bats eat?

Cited references and Photo Credits