Five marvellous facts about bats!

(c) Harry Hog

Are bats really blind? How do bats stop themselves feeling dizzy after hanging upside-down all day? Super-fast muscles?!

Bats are incredible and can regularly be spotted in our urban areas, but how much do you really know about these spectacular creatures?

Fact 1: Bats could be competitive eaters!

Did you know that the common pipistrelle will eat an average of 3.5 THOUSAND midges in just one evening? That's the equivalent of a small child eating 60 roast dinners a day - what greedy guts!

Bats need to eat this much just to stay alive as their lifestyles are so energy intensive. For this reason, bats are fantastic indicators of a healthy insect population.

Pipistrelle bat

(c) Amy Lewis

Pipistrelle bats are the smallest of the bats living in the UK, weighing less than a £1 coin

Fact 2: Bats aren't silent, we just can't hear them

The noctule bat is the loudest bat in the UK. They're so loud that when they make their calls they close their ears so they don't deafen themselves. During echolocation a bat can contract it's larynx 200 times a second, making it the fastest muscle of all the mammals. These super-quick muscles are 100 times faster than the muscles that humans use to blink.

Bats also have super sensitive hearing: the brown long-eared bat can even detect the sound of a ladybird walking on a leaf! 

Blind as a bat?

Contrary to popular belief, a bats eyesight is actually pretty good. Bats just choose to hunt at night using their echolocation so they can avoid competition with birds, but will use their vision to find roosts and avoid predators.

Brown long-eared bat

(c) Tom Marshall

Brown long-eared bats can hear a ladybird walking on a leaf

Fact 3: Timing is everything

Bats have a very narrow window when they can successfully rear their young. Despite the breeding season being in September, bats won't actually start their pregnancy until they re-emerge from hibernation in the spring.

Their eight-week gestation period can be further delayed by up to two weeks by breaking their roost up into smaller groups, and in doing so creating micro-changes in the temperature.

Daubenton's Bat

(c) Dale Sutton/2020VISION

Daubenton's bats use their outrageously large feet to snatch insects off the top of the water

Fact 4: Rats of the sky

Bats are actually more closely related to humans than they are mice or rats and their body plans are very similar to ours.

18 different species of bat live in the UK.

Did you know?

The last known mammal to go extinct in the UK was a bat. The greater mouse-eared bat was declared extinct in the UK in 1990.

Leisler's bat

(c) Tom Marshall

Leisler's bats used to be called hairy-armed bats

Fact 5: Hanging around

Bats can hang upside-down even when they're asleep due to a handy locking mechanism in their toes and claws.

Bats need to hang upside-down in this way because unlike birds, they can't launch themselves off the ground and their hind-legs can't support their body-weight in an upright stance. 

But with all this hanging upside-down, don't they get dizzy?

Nope, bats don't weigh enough for gravity to affect their blood flow.


Dale Sutton

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