Here Are Three Reasons to Love Bats… We’ve Got Plenty MoreMatthew M. Sullivan
Bats are surrounded by stigma — and we aren’t entirely sure why. Perhaps it’s because of their ominous affiliation with Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula (who could shape-shift into and control the minds of bats), an association that struck fear in the hearts of readers and movie-goers for over a century — a fear that was endlessly perpetuated by pop cultural icons like Bruce Wayne and Ace Ventura. Or perhaps it’s that they’re so dark and mysterious and unique, which maybe makes people think they’re scary or evil or weird.
Whatever the cause, we think it’s time to restore honor to perhaps the most integral members of any (and pretty much every) ecosystem on earth: Bats.
In observance of National Bat Appreciation Day, which happens each year on April 17, we’ve compiled the seven best reasons to love and appreciate bats each and every day. Check it out:
1. They’re Conservationists
Bats play an important function in their various ecosystems. More than 550 plant species reportedly depend on bat pollination to procreate. Bats like the lesser long-nosed bat feed on the fruit and nectar of various species of cacti, and help pollinate the plants as the mosey from cactus to cactus.
Many other plants benefit from fruit bats who eat and later excrete their seeds — a process that may be crucial to the regrowth of forests that have been cleared by fire or demolition.
2. They Eat Things That You Like Less Than Bats
Most “New World” bats are insectivores, with a preference for mosquitoes and moths — and they eat a lot of them. One bat can eat as many as 1,200 mosquitoes in an hour.
The bats of Bracken Cave in Texas, which is the largest colony in the world with 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats, can eat more than 200 tons of insects in a single night.
Watch the bats of Bracken Cave on their nightly insect hunt:
Want to help bats? Get a Bat House!
Provide a place for bats to relax after a night of eating all the insects in your yard.
3. Their Sound Changed the World…
Bats use a special navigation tool, called echolocation, which allows them to locate objects (read: flying food) by emitting chirps and clicks through their mouth or nose and listening for an echo. When the chirrups’ sound waves bounce off another object in space, the bat can determine the shape, size, and location of the object with minute precision.
The bats’ extrasensory navigation system inspired modern radar and sonar, which locate objects using radio pings, and gave blind people a way to “see” without sight (even Marvel’s resident blind superhero Daredevil extensively uses echolocation to map his surroundings).
4. They Help Save Lives
Vampire bats, who are the only mammals known to feed on blood, have a natural anticoagulant in their saliva, called draculin (of course). Turns out, draculin might be able to help people survive strokes by breaking up blood clots.
5. Their Babies Are Adorable
Just look at these photos:
How could you not be in love with bats?
6. They’re Unique & Diverse, Tiny & Huge, And Pretty Much Everywhere
Bats are in the taxonomic order Chiroptera, which roughly translated means “hand-wing.” They are incredibly versatile — the collective range for the nearly 1,000 recorded species of bats covers most of the world, minus some isolated islands, extreme deserts, and the polar ice caps.
The world’s smallest bat, which weighs less than a U.S. penny, may also be the smallest known mammal — it’s called the bumblebee bat. The largest, the flying fox, has a wingspan of nearly 2 meters (6.5 feet). Bats make up nearly a quarter of all mammal species, which makes them the second-most diverse mammalian order on the planet after rodents.
7. They Need Your Help!
Bats have recently become susceptible to a disease called white-nose syndrome, which affects millions of bats throughout the United States.
Last year, the Organization for Bat Conservation recruited Zack Snyder and Amy Adams, the director and star (respectively) of the upcoming film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, to help build bat houses in the name of bat conservation.
And bonus: there’s a brief into and outro by DC’s new Batman, Ben Affleck, talking about his favorite (many) species: Bats!