Where do bats live?
Bats are found throughout Africa. They primarily live in forests and savannas. Colonies of bats roost together in tall trees.
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What is a bat?
After rodents, bats are the most numerous mammals on earth. African bats fall into two major categories: large fruit bats and smaller, insect-eating bats, neither of which attacks people. Besides the difference in size between the two types, there is a great variation in the extent and details of the wings, which are formed by the naked membrane of skin that extends from the neck to the wrist and between the fingers, and finally to the tail. Wing shapes vary from species to species. Usually, the swift fliers have long, narrow wings while the slow fliers have broad, rounded ones.
The bones of the hand that support the wing membrane are unusually long. The hind legs are rotated 180 degrees at the hip joint so that the knee flexes backward rather than forward. This arrangement does not hamper the bat when it is perched but does help it push off from the roost for a quick getaway. Bats are very agile even on land, scuttling quickly over objects and squeezing themselves through small openings.
Bats’ food preferences are denoted by their names.
Fruit bats feast largely on fruit. They have large cheek pouches, enabling them to take food to be eaten at another perch. They usually eat overripe and unmarketable fruits, and they may even help reduce fungi and fruit flies in commercial plantations. Insect-eating bats are natural pesticides, eating mosquitos and other varieties of insects.
They are creatures of the night.
With few exceptions, bats are nocturnal and emerge from their daytime roosts only when the light of day is fading. During the day, fruit bats often roost hanging upside down in the exposed branches of trees. Other species prefer to roost upside down in large colonies that may number in the millions, in dark caves. They also live in smaller colonies in crevices, hollow trees, and around houses.
Bats have exceptionally developed senses.
Fruit bats have an acute sense of smell and large eyes that give them good night vision, both of which help them locate fruit and nectar. Insect-eating bats find their way in total darkness by emitting high-pitched squeaks through the nose or mouth as they fly. These sounds bounce off objects and echo back to the bats' ears. This echolocation, or bat sonar, allows them to locate, capture, and eat insects in midair while still detecting and avoiding objects as fine as a human hair. However, in order to send and receive these location signals, they have developed strange-looking ears and noses.
They like to hang out with their mothers.
Usually one bat is born a year to an adult female. In some species, the mother carries around the infant for five or six weeks, but in others, the mothers leave them in "nurseries" while they go out to feed. The young are carried by attaching themselves to a teat or to a "false teat" or using their feet to hang on to the hair on the mother's stomach. Even though a young bat is two-thirds grown at six weeks, it will not become sexually mature until 2 years of age.