Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Why Bats are So Amazing, Important & Misunderstood - part I

Lesser Short-Nose Fruit Bat (Cynopterus brachyotis)
photo by Jose Iriarte-Diaz & Arnold Song*

Some Important Bat Facts
click on the links to view a photo of the bat/s**
  • Nearly 1,000 [now 1,100] kinds of bats account for almost a quarter [now 20%] of all mammal species, and most are highly beneficial.
  • A single little brown bat can catch 1,200 mosquito-sized insects in just one hour.
  • A colony of 150 big brown bats can protect local farmers from up to 33 million or more rootworms each summer.
  • The 20 million Mexican free-tails from Bracken Cave, Texas, eat approximately 200 tons of insects nightly.
  • Tropical bats are key elements in rain forest ecosystems, which rely on them to pollinate flowers and disperse seeds for countless trees and shrubs.
  • In the wild, important agricultural plants, from bananas, breadfruit, and mangoes to cashews, dates, figs, rely on bats for pollination and seed dispersal.
  • Tequila is produced from agave plants whose seed production drops to 1/3,000th of normal without bat pollinators.
  • Desert ecosystems rely on nectar-feeding bats as primary pollinators of giant cacti, including the famous organ pipe and saguaro of Arizona.
  • Bat droppings in caves support whole ecosystems of unique organisms, including bacteria useful in detoxifying wastes, improving detergents, and producing gasohol and antibiotics.
  • An anticoagulant from vampire bat saliva may soon be used to treat human heart patients.
  • Contrary to popular misconceptions, bats are not blind, do not become entangled in human hair, and seldom transmit disease to other animals or humans.
  • All mammals can contract rabies, however, fewer than one-half of one percent of bats do, and these typically bite only in self-defense. Bats pose little threat if people simply do not handle them.
  • Bat are exceptionally vulnerable to extinction, in part because they are the slowest reproducing mammals on earth for their size. Most produce only one young a year.
  • More than half of American bat species are in severe decline or are already listed as endangered. Losses are occurring at alarming rates worldwide.
  • Loss of bats increases demand for chemical pesticides, can jeopardize whole ecosystems of other animal and plant species, and can harm human economies.
(Taken from a BCI booklet from the 1990's "Important Bat Facts". The text in brackets reflects updated information.)

* This photo was part of research done at Brown University by Kenneth Breuer and Sharon Swartz on the aerodynamics of bat flight.

** Note that you are linking to photos on other people's websites and these photos are/may be copyrighted by the owners.

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