Are Bats Intelligent?

Generally speaking, bats are intelligent. These ‘flying foxes’ seem to be smart since they show a particular curiosity about new things. Also, they seem to know the people who enter their cages and enclosures. The other thing is that many bat species have been noted to use echolocation as a hunting tool. Those ideas suffice in the basic explanation of the intelligence of bats. As compared to many small mammals, they are smart. However, they are beaten by rats since the rodents have the unique ability to make and use tools (to some extent).

A Run-Down On Bat Facts

For many people, a bat is a disgusting creature. People who have come across it hate and loath it with illogically and unreasonableness. However, that does not stop the bats from being the intelligent creatures they are. Among all mammals, bats are the only ones that can fly.

Let’s talk a little about bats before we go into detailed facts. About 1100 species make up the entire bat family – this is quite a significant number. This implies that bats make up around 25% of all living mammals. Contrary to the common belief, bats eat fruits and insects. If you pay attention to the brown bat, you will realize that, in an hour, it can catch about 1200 small insects.

Depending on the species involved and the location, bats come in different sizes. For example, the largest bat globally is the giant golden-crowned flying fox. Its wings span about five feet – how astonishing! That flying fox is only found in the Philippines. The only place you cannot find the bats is in the Antarctic region. On the other hand, the smallest bat in the world is the bumblebee bat, which averages a length of one inch.

In terms of birth details, bats only deliver a single young one every year. A bat’s lifespan can be anything between 2 to 30 years; this all depends on the prevailing conditions. To move in the dark effectively, bats employ the use of echolocation. While they may not be blind, bats have poor vision.

Bats love living in old, abandoned buildings, caves, and trees. You may find some caves having about a million of them. This is more incredible when you think that a mother needs to locate their offspring from many young ones waiting for a meal. However, mothers do not miss and achieve it with great precision.

Although bats have tarnished reputations, they are among the most harmless creatures. The vampire bats, which many fear, are not known to cause any harm to humans.

Bat Detailed Facts

This section is an explosion of the previous one. It captures the essential facts about bats that are unknown to many. In this section, you will be opened up to information more than the intelligence of bats. Here are the bat-detailed facts:

1. Globally, the largest bat colony sits in the Texan Bracken Bat Cave. In that cave, about 20 million bats live there. This number of bats is more than that of the people who live in Mumbai, a city in India that is one of the most populous human towns worldwide. The image of a bat leaving a cave will look like that of a massive storm. In one night, the bats will eat close to 400,000 US tons of insects.

2. In their research and studies, experts were stunned when they found out about a sexual detail involving the Cynopterus sphinx, or the female short-nosed fruit bat. They discovered that that species performs fellatio (or oral sex) on the males so that copulation lasts longer. While fellatio in animals is not a new thing (it has been observed among juvenile bonobo members), it is the first time seen in non-human adult animals. The argument that researchers have is that the acts of fellatio serve an evolutionary benefit for the bats.

3. Some bats – the Mexican free-tailed ones – can fly up to about 402 km (or 250 miles) in one night. On top of that, they fly up to 3048 m (or 10000 feet) high. Also, the bats clock a speed of up to 97 kilometers (or 60 miles) and hour.

4. A tiny bat colony can eat about a ton of bugs and insects in a year. The total number of bugs would be more than 600 million.

5. One bat eats more than 600 insects in one hour. To put this to perspective, it is like someone eating 20 pizzas through one night – incredible, right?

6. The BCI or the Bat Conservation International has it that 150 brown bats (the big kind) can eat many cucumber beetles; they save farmers about a billion dollars in one summer. When the bats eat the beetles, the mammals prevent them from having 33 million larvae that would attack the farmers’ crops.

7. The three most common bats are the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), and the Mexican free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis). Of the many bat species, only three of them consist of vampire bats.

8. In the Southeast part of Asia, some bats – the small club-footed kind – take their places in bamboo stalks to roost. For the bats to reach their areas of rest, they squeeze through openings that are as small as 0.4 inches. We are talking about a fingernail’s width.

9. There are bats in the Western part of Africa that live in large spider webs known as the small woolly bats.

10. Unless some seeds pass through a bat’s digestive tract, they do not sprout. Moreover, bats work on spreading seeds in their millions every year – the seeds come from the fruits that the mammals eat. Tropical rainforest deforestation happens because of the seed dispersal efforts that bats initiate.

11. With vampire bats, there is no sucking of blood. What they do every night is that they lap about two blood teaspoons using their tongues. Under the bat’s tongue, the blood moves in two channels through the mouth of the bat. To the bat, the only essential blood components are the red blood cells. When two minutes of the ‘blood-sucking’ elapse, the bat’s body starts getting rid of the blood plasma in its urine.

12. Some of the vampire bats, which are white-winged, engage in very shrewd behavior. They try to pretend that they are chicks by snuggling up to the hens. When they are under the hens, the bats unroll their feeding plans on the hens’ blood.

13. Although a vampire bat can bite a person, it seldom happens. However, when it does, the bat will try and come back to feed on the same person the following night. One fantastic thing is that vampire bats use breathing to differentiate people. They can tell the breathing of one person from another and so on.

14. Vampire bats are quite generous. If one has found a blood meal, they are likely to share it with other vampires in the roost. What happens is that one vampire vomits blood, and the others feed on the vomit.

15. The other names used to describe bats are old batters, bald mice, flitter mice, and vagabonds. The reason behind them being called flitter mice is that people have been thinking of them as the mice of the air.

16. The original human-vampire was known as Vlad the Impaler. He was the first person in the 15th Century to be known as the son of the dragon, or Count Dracula.

17. In the United States, over 50% of the bat population is either in decline or is endangered. The two major causes of the population decrease are loss of habitat and the White-Nose syndrome – a mystery illness that has affected many bats.

18. Chiroptera, the scientific name for bats, comes from two Greek words: cheir and pteron, which mean hand and wing. The combination forms the word hand-wing, which is the basic description of a bat – a mammal with winged hands.

19. There are two bat groups: The Microchiroptera (the micro-bats) and the Megachiroptera (the mega-bats). The mega-bats are fruit eaters (or fruit bats) and are also known as the flying foxes. Typically, they find their places of stay in warm climates – they love roosting in trees. They find food in the dark thanks to their large eyes. Unlike other bats, they rather roost in trees than in old buildings, crevices, and caves. As compared to the mega-bats, micro-bats are smaller, and for the most part, they use echolocation to get bugs and insects.

20. You will notice differences between these two types of bats. The mega-bat has two claws (on its thumb and next finger), while a micro-bat has one claw (on its thumb). In terms of brain development, mega-bats are better than micro-bats. Also and unlike micro-bats, mega-bats use less echolocation and more of their senses. When a mega-bat is roosting, it will bend its tiny neck towards its chest. Then, it will start looking at the world from an upside-down position. When a micro-bat is roosting, it will bend its little neck towards and back. Then, it will start looking at the world in a right-side-up position.

21. There is a belief among scientists that echolocation was a development that came late compared to flight in bats. The most obvious fact is that in the world of mammals, bats are the only ones capable of flight.

22. As compared to birds, bats usually spread out their digits and flap them during flight. Birds flutter the whole forelimb.

23. The Myotis, or the single brown bat, can live longer than other animals of the same size. Its lifespan is about 40 years. To put that to perspective, shrews and mice do not live for more than 24 months.

24. For their size, bats reproduce slowly as compared to other mammals. Their gestation periods, which last for between six and nine weeks, are the longest compared to other mammals of their size.

25. The only bat which moves excellently on the ground is the vampire bat.

26. The other animals that use echolocation include cave-dwelling birds and dolphins. Most bats usually open their mouths to make ultrasound echolocation signals.

27. During hibernation, the heartbeat of a mouse-eared bat drops to 18 beats every minute. This is compared to the 880 beats per minute when active.

28. The common belief among scientists is that bats first appeared about 100 million years ago. This is approximately the same time that the dinosaurs appeared. About 35 million years ago, there was the appearance of the mega-bats. Another hypothesis by scientists is that mega-bats are more related to primates (humans, apes, monkeys) than micro-bats.

29. In Japan and China, the bat is seen as a symbol of happiness. In the Chinese language, both good fortune and bat are all pronounced as fu.

30. How bats are viewed in Europe and North America is different. In those regions and for a long time, bats have been associated with sorcery and witchcraft. They were often used in portions and folk medicine and ingredients.

31. The weight of a pipistrelle is less than that of two pennies. Also, it is as long as the little finger of a person. However, its weight and height do not stop it from eating up to 3000 bugs each night.

32. Although Dracula’s vampire stories were born in Eastern Europe, the real vampires are found in the Americas, specifically in the South and Central parts.

33. The people of Guam enjoy fruit bats as a traditional food source. Hunting for consumption has made the bats to be enlisted as endangered species. Now, the people in the territory import bat meat from other islands. Also, the area serves as a significant bat-meat trade center.

34. Guano is the name used to refer to bat dropping. Because it has high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, it works as an excellent fertilizer in tropical regions.

35. While many people believe that bats are blind, they are not. Actually, some species can detect UV light. Because of their powerful and effective echolocation, they behave contrary to the expectations of the urban legend: they won’t get tangled in a person’s hair.

36. Some female bats show incredible control over the reproductive system. The female bats that hibernate can control their delivery time by either slowing down the embryo’s development inside on keeping the sperm of the male in their inside.

37. The bat with the most extended tongue (compared to its whole body) is the Anoura fistulata or the tube-lipped nectar bat. When it is not using its tongue, the flying mammal retracts the tongue into the rib cage area.

38. The Icaronycteris index is the oldest-known fossil of the micro-bat. It was found in Yellowstone, Wyoming, and it is estimated to have lived about 50 million years ago.

 39. The vampire bat spit has proved to be useful as scientists have used its content anticoagulation agent. It has been used to treat human heart and stroke victims.

40. Most of the bats – regardless of their species – are either black or brown. However, there are some which have colorful shades of red and orange.

41. The tuning of a bat’s echolocation is so excellent that objects like human hair – which is so thin – can be detected.

42. The only mammals globally whose survival depends on blood are the vampire bats.

43. Some bats enjoy feeding on dogs. These species can tell the difference between poisonous and safe frogs by listening to the call being made by the frog.

44. Gunpowder was made out of bat droppings during the United States Civil War.

45. The upside-down position taken by most bats is an all-around thing – for sleeping, giving birth, mating, and resting.

46. The blood needs of a vampire bat are extensive – the bats need to drink an amount of blood that matches their weight every day. If Dracula – a human-vampire – needed to keep going every day, they would need to drink blood from all the guests seated at the table. Otherwise, he would not have survived.

47. When bats are sleeping, they need to hang upside down if they need to fly off quickly.

48. For the mammals’ body size and as compared to a bird, bats have bigger brains, that is, in terms of size.

49. Except in zoos, no vampire bats are living in the United States wilderness.

50. Although bats live in many caves in the United States, it is only around 5% of those that have the right water and temperature conditions suitable for bat life.

51. A bat uses between 30 and 60 days of stored energy to get itself awake and out of the state of hibernation. This is the reason why hibernating bat should be left undisturbed.

52. In the Union, three of the 50 states identify with a bat. They include Oklahoma and Texas, which share the Mexican free-tailed bat, and Virginia with the big-eared bat.

53. Many bats love roosting in groups or about a million other bats. However, there are two bats – the red and the hoary bats – which love roosting alone.

54. Many of the female bats take on the skies with their young ones clinging to them. Some bat species have false nipples, which the pups hold on to when the mother is in the air.

Bonus Sections: How Bats Compare To Birds

When you first look at a bat in the evening, you may be inclined to think of it as a bird trying to hurry home to roost. Although birds and bats are winged mammals, they have differences. This bonus section sets to respond comfortably to this discussion.

Physiologically Speaking

Every physiological detail about a bird points to its flight adaptive-ness. The bones of a bird are hollow (contain air spaces) to ensure that they are lightweight. Also, they have aerodynamic feathers that cover their bodies. When a female bird is pregnant, it lay eggs and avoid the inconveniences that come with flying. One of the fascinating detail about the bird’s physiology is the excretion details. Instead of excreting bulky liquid urine, all its nitrogenous wastes are concentrated into lightweight solids.

On the flip side, bats are as mammalian as they can get – like people and like dogs. Their bones are dense, and their bodies are covered with fur. When the females are pregnant, they fly and give birth – in an upside-down position – to live young ones. Unlike birds, bats have milk reservoirs they use to nurse their babies with. The excrement of bats is heavy. Although they are adapted to flying, bats have mammalian characteristics that limit their sizes compared to those of birds.

Speaking Of Flying Patterns

If you put the wings of a bat on one side and those of a bird on another, you will see that they are very different. For birds, you have feathers growing out of a combination of the hand, wrist, and fingers. In contrast, a bat’s fingers are a little too long, and they grow out of the wrist. The wing of a bat is made of skin that stretches across the fingers; it is flexibly thin and promotes the mammal’s increased ability to capture air.

The one difference you should take home is that bats have weaker muscles that deprive them of the ability to take off if they are on the ground. A bat on the ground needs first to use its claws to climb before it drops from a height to enable it to fly. As you may already know, it is easy for birds to take off even if they are on the ground.

The Senses Of A Bat

The sense that bats use the most to enable them to survive is heating. Echolocation – which has been mentioned profusely in this read – involves bat emitting high-pitched sounds from their noses and mouths. If the bat is dealing with an object or an insect, the echo communicates to them specific details. This is explained in the following, but is not limited to:

1. If more of the echo return, the object is bigger

2. If the echo takes long to come back to the bat’s ear, the object is far away

3. If the right ear detects the echo, the object is on that side

Leave a Comment