A few words about bats
It has long been believed and still is in many places, that all bats are blind. “Blind as a bat” is often heard. Long ago, scientists watching bats and seeing how well they could find their way around could not explain how bats “saw”.
Later, studies showed that bats could see, probably as well as human beings. But it was then proved that bats could find their way around even when they were blindfolded. Scientists were more puzzled than ever and said as a joke: “Bats can see with their ears.”
This was not as funny as it seemed. In flight, bats make sounds that are too high for our ears to hear. They screech as they fly, and the echoes of these cries come back to their ears. In this way they are able to tell where walls and other obstacles are.
Bats are the only mammals that can fly. They are even more dependent on flying than birds because their legs and feet are not suitable for walking.
Bats are an old order of mammals. Fossils of about 60,000,000 years old have been found. There are more than 900 species, living all over the world except in and near the polar regions. They are most common in the tropics, where they can find food all the year round. Most species are brownish in colour, but others are blackish, orange, grey, greyish green, greenish white, white, yellowish, and some are even spotted.
There are fruit-eating bats and insect- eating bats. There are also bats that catch and eat small fish. And there are bats that feed on blood.
Vampire bats are the only mammals that feed on blood.
These small tailless creatures live in Central and South America. With their two razor-sharp upper teeth vampire bats make a small hole in the skin of another animal and suck blood from it. They sometimes bite human beings, too, but it happens very seldom. Vampire bats usually drink about 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) of blood a day. The wound they give their victims heals quickly, but these bats may carry rabies, that is why people are afraid of them.
A few words about bats
Bats are usually active at night, when most people are asleep. In the daytime they hang close together in their attics, caves, or other dark places where they make their homes. Some species live in trees. Bats hang upside down when they are resting. Only when evening comes do they begin to move. First a few will rise and fly about, sometimes going out of the hole into the night above. Then others will begin to move. And finally all of the bats will rise up in a body and fly high into the air. There they go their own ways to spend the night searching for food they like best. In the morning they come home from their night of work to sleep until the next night.
Bats can almost always find their way home, even if the cave or tree in which they live is a hundred and fifty miles away. How they do this, no one knows.
Bats, as compared with other small mammals, have very few enemies. Some hawks, owls, and snakes can catch them, but it isn’t an easy thing for them.
Bats live as long as 10 years, some species live longer.
Many strange and false legends have been told about bats. In Western countries people fear them and think that they bring bad luck. In China and Japan bats are symbols of good luck, happiness, and long life. Bats have even been used in making primitive medicines.
From Speak Out 3, 1998