Bats have inhabited the Earth for about the last 50 million years. The earliest fossils of the species found bare a remarkable resemblance to the bats of today. The ancestry of bats is thought to be similar to that of primates. This is highly attributed to their offsprings' dependence upon nurturing and nursing which is accomplished through a pair of pectoral breasts. These were the factors which led Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy, to link the two species.
Bats vary in their physical make-up. Some have long, angora-like fur, while others are furless. They range in color from red or yellow to jet black or white. One species is endowed with pink wings and ears. Another, known as Butterfly bats, have bright, intricate patterns. Their ears are tiny for some and huge on others. The world's smallest mammal is the bumblebee bat of Thailand, which weighs less than a penny. On the other hand, the Flying Foxes of the Old World tropics have wings spans up to 6 feet!
It is evident that their numbers were once abundant, but over the centuries
the population has decreased due to an increase in the human population.
This could be a factor affecting the health and stability of life today
due to the importance of the mammal in the circle of life. Scientists have
given the name Chiroptera ("winged hands") to the bat family. It is split
into two groups which divide the species: Microchiroptera and Megachiroptera.
The former is highly varied and are found worldwide, while the later is
composed of the Flying Foxes. These bats, named for their fox-like faces
tend to inhabit the Old World tropics. Within the Flying Foxes is the bat
family Pteropodidae, which contains the "Common" Fruit Bat seen and discussed
Malaysian Fruit Bat
|Name: Malaysian Fruit Bat|
|Scientific name: Cynopterus brachyotis|
|Range: Tropical rain forests of Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo to the Phillipine Islands. . Warm, wet areas where food is available year round.|
|Habitat: Caves, barns, bridges. Their favorite choice would seem to be high up in tall trees.|
|Status: Not threatened|
|Diet in the wild: Figs, mangoes, guavas, bananas, and other tropical fruits. Some feed on nectar through pollination.|
|Diet in the zoo: A mixture of grapes, mango and puppy chow (high in protein).|
|Location in the zoo: Education Center|
|Physical Description of the Fruit Bat:
The fruit bat's taste is much like that of humans; they prefer sweet,
aromatic, juicy fruits. Once they find their meal they will either eat
it right of the vine or tree or take elsewhere to enjoy. It is not uncommon
for the bat to crush the fruit and simply drink the juices, while leaving
the remaining pulp to fall to the ground and rot. Some fruit bats will
pollinate flowers, gaining nourishment from the nectar; thus creating a
symbiotic relationship. However, many will chew the "meaty" petals right
off of the flower, killing the blossom.
|Navigation and Migration:
Bats communicate and navigate using high-frequency sounds. This method is so sophisticated and refined that a bat could detect an object the size of a human hair in total darkness. Bats, being very loyal to their birthplace and hibernation sight, may use this in some way to plot their way from one destination to the other but scientists are unaware of exactly how they find their way back and forth every year. It is thought that certain patterns and landmarks are passed through generations. Bats tend to migrate within a 300 mile range to warmer climates where they hibernate for up to 6 months or more using reserves of stored fat.
|Environmental Adaptations and Techniques:
When the weather gets warm, about 37 degrees Celcius, bats simulate
the act of perspiring. The fruit bat will lick their breast, stomach, and
wings to the point that it would seem they'd been bathing in water. Then,
they'll fan one of their wings back and forth to create s breeze against
their body. This causes the moisture to evaporate. Thus, cooling them down
|Sleep, Dawn and Dusk:
Fruit bats don't hibernate or fall into deep lethargic daytime sleeps
like the insectivorous bats. Their sleep tendencies are a bit like many
humans. They'll sleep during the daylight hours after a long night's hunt,
and they'll sleep hard if they're tired enough. However, if they are alarmed
in any way, they won't hesitate to check out what the cause was.
|Ecological and Economic Value:
|Comments about the Fruit Bats at the Fort Worth Zoo:
The two fruit bats at the Fort Worth Zoo are found in the Education Center. They rest during the center's business hours inside a simulated forest area, separated from humans by a pane of glass. The roost from a grate in the ceiling side by side. One seems to prefer to hang with one leg, while the other, seems more comfortable with two. The latter bat was very aware of activity on the other side of the glass. When movement or noise was sense, she would untuck her head and target the culprit with his dark, glassy eyes. Once assured that there was either no danger or no excitement, she'd tuck her head back into place and snuggle a bit with his partner. I found them most enjoyable to spend time with even while they slept. .
|Information for this document came from:
Grzimek, Dr. h.c. Bernhard. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia,Volume II: Mammals II; Van Nostrand Reinhold Co.p79-110.
Time Magazine Article about Bats: