By Kristen Bieret, PCCB Naturalist
There is a special kind of mammal that has its own appreciation month this October and it is very fitting with the theme of Halloween.
This special creature could easily be confused for a bird or even an insect but is in fact a mammal. Mammals have hair or fur, are warm blooded, and have live birth meaning they don’t hatch from an egg. There are over 900 kinds of this flying mammal. It is in fact the only mammal that can fly. This mammal can range greatly in size from a wingspan of 5 to 6 feet to a wingspan of 1.25 inches. Have you figured out what kind of night time mammal these clues are describing? If you guessed a bat you would be correct!
Bats are broken up into two groups micro and mega bats based on their size and characteristics. Micro bats usually eat insects and Mega bats usually eat fruit. Their wings are made up of the bones that would be found in other mammals in their hands. The wings have bones that are like elongated fingers covered in thin skin to create a webbed wing. There are nine species of bats in Iowa and all of them are insect eaters. A single bat can eat up to 2,000 mosquitoes per night.
Bats have a few rumors about them that just aren’t true. For example bats are not blind. They can see and use echolocation to help them find food also. By sending out sound waves they will listen to hear when they echo back to their ears to figure out where food is located and use this in conjunction with their eyes to find food.
Bats also hang upside down to help conserve energy. Has they hang upside down it causes their muscles to lock into place so they can hold on without exerting any energy. That means even if a bat was no longer alive it could be hanging upside down.
Bats in North America have been facing a threat called white nose syndrome. It is a fungus that colonizes and takes over a bats skin causing it to die. It contributed to more than 5 million bat deaths. It has not reached extensively into the state of Iowa yet.
Check out the website below to learn even more about these winged mammals.