'Bats of the world' presentation Oct. 18

'Bats of the world' presentation Oct. 18

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Long-nosed bats

Long-nosed bats

ELKO — Bristlecone Audubon’s Oct. 18 meeting will include a talk on the “Bats of the World” by Mark Ports, professor emeritus.

The meeting begin at 7 p.m. in Room 208 of the DCIT Building at Great Basin College, 1050 Chilton Circle.

Bats make up a quarter of all mammals. There are more than 1,300 species of bats in the world. Bats are unique animals that are in a group all their own, called Chiroptera, which means hand-wing.

Bats are the only mammals capable of true, sustained flight. Their forelimbs form webbed wings and in order to fly they flap their spread out fingers. The wing is made up of a thin membrane of skin which extends from the body. A bat’s wings are much thinner and have more bones than wings of birds. This allows them to accurately maneuver, providing more lift and less drag.

In addition to good eyesight which all bats have, insect-eating bats are equipped with a built in echo-location system that allows them to navigate at break-neck speed through total darkness. Bats have been recorded at up to 100 mph. If a bat swoops toward you, it’s probably after the mosquito or moth that is hovering just above your head – not you.

Most bats have very cute faces, some even resemble mice, deer, rabbits and little dogs. Like cats, bats spend an enormous amount of time grooming their fur, keeping it soft and silky. They are among the slowest reproducing animals on earth. Most bat species have only one live young per year. A mother bat nurses her baby from a pair of pectoral breasts. The average life-span of a bat is 25 to 40 years.

Bats don’t carry rabies. They can catch the disease just like any other mammal. Less than one-half of one percent of bats actually contract the disease. In reality, fewer than 10 people in the last 50 years have contracted rabies from North American bats. You should exercise caution around any wild animal, including bats. They will bite in self-defense. Bats found on the ground are more likely to be sick so they should never be rescued bare-handed.

Vampire bats don’t suck blood. There are only three species of vampire bats. They are found in Central or South America. After making a small bite on the animal they actually lap the blood. They mostly use farm animals such as cows and chickens.

The remaining species of bats eat insects, fruit, nectar and pollen. A few species eat fish and frogs. Insect-eating bats eat billions of tons of insects each summer.

Bats can be found nearly everywhere except in extreme deserts and Polar Regions. Bats range in size from the Kitti’s hog-nosed that weighs less than a penny — making it the world’s smallest mammal — to the flying foxes, which can have a wingspan of up to 6 feet.

Join the Bristlecone Audubon meeting to learn more.

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