All You Need To Know About Bats – Science Trek (Transcript)

Joan Cartan-Hansen: Cooper would like to know, how many fingers do bats have?

Jesse Barber: Bats have five fingers. And, in fact, the scientific name for bats, chiroptera means hand wing.

Joey: Hi. My name is Joey, and I go to Dalton Elementary School, and my question is, how many species of bats are there?

Rita Dixon: There over 1200 species of bats, and we keep discovering new species of bats, so the number continues to grow.

Dominic: Hi. My name is Dominic, and I go to Dalton Elementary School, and my question is, where do bats live?

Jesse Barber: Many bats live in caves in large numbers, but there are lots of bats that live in trees. They can live under the bark in small groups or underneath giant leaves in the tropics that they modify to make tents. And some even live all by themselves at the very top of trees hanging by one foot, and they wrap their tail around themselves to look like a pine-cone.

Rita Dixon: And I’ll add to that in terms of around the world where bats live. Bats occur everywhere except the most extreme arctic regions of the world. So, bats go as far as Alaska to the north and Argentina in the south.

Ashley: Hi. My name is Ashley. I go to Lewis and Clark, and my question is, what is echolocation?

Jesse Barber: Echolocation is how bats see in the dark. They scream out and then listen for the returning echoes from the world around them.

Rita Dixon: And to add to that, interestingly, with bats, they’re producing the sound from their larynx just like we do, but the sounds they’re putting out, unlike what we’re putting out, is what we call ultrasonic high frequency that typically we can’t hear with the human ear.

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Kenzie: Hi. My name is Kenzie, and I go to Cole Valley Christian School, and my question is, why do bats like the dark?

Rita Dixon: Bats were developed – they’re pretty much the ecological equivalent of birds except they switch shifts. And so bats have vision and they can see, but their vision is adapted more toward dim light instead of bright light. And because they use echolocation in the dark, that’s why they’re active at night.

Aurora: Hello. My name is Aurora from Dalton Elementary, and my question is, do bats have night vision?

Rita Dixon: Bats can see to some extent in the dark, and bats’ eyes are developed to illuminate things, so they’re a little different from our eyes. Our eyes are equipped more to have higher resolution, but bats’ eyes are equipped to have higher illumination in the night.

Jesse Barber: And remember that there are 1200 species of bats that make their living in all kinds of different ways. So, those that use echolocation to hunt as their dominant sense often have very tiny eyes and don’t use them very much. And other bats, that might not use echolocation to localize the insects but instead use the footstep sounds that these bugs make, also use their eyes for hunting.

Dorin: My name is Dorin, and I go to Dalton Elementary in Dalton Gardens, Idaho. My question is, what are mega and microbats?

Rita Dixon: Mega and microbats – so, when we think about bats, Jesse talked about the order of bats, which is called chiroptera or hand wing. And that’s divided into two, what we call, suborders: megabats and microbats. Megabats means large. So, the megabats are much larger bats, often with a 6-foot wingspan, whereas the microbats are much smaller, and their eyes are very different, too.

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The megabats use their vision for getting around foraging and typically don’t echolocate, whereas the microbats depend almost exclusively on echolocation.


Joan Cartan-Hansen: Blind as a bat? That’s not true. Bats have good eyesight, and some bats see better than humans in the dark, and not every bat uses echolocation to find food. Megabats find fruit with their strong sense of smell.

Ashley: Hi. My name is Ashley. I go to Dalton Elementary. My question is, why do bats live in large groups?

Rita Dixon: Bats live in large groups for different reasons. In one case, bats live in large groups because there’s safety in numbers. For example, if you have lots of bats watching for predators, it’s safer for the bats because it’s like a warning system.

Bats also live in large groups because they’re often – some species are very social, and they enjoy being with other bats. Another reason bats live in large colonies is to conserve body heat, and that can be true when they’re hibernating in the winter and when they have maternity colonies where female bats give birth to their pups.

Jada: Hi. My name is Jada. I go to Spalding Elementary School, and my question is, how far do bats travel in one hour?

Jesse Barber: Some bats fly so fast that they can travel tens of miles in an hour, 30 or 40 miles in an hour.

Mason: Hello. My name is Mason. I go to Dalton Elementary, and my question is, is there a maximum number for how many babies a female bat can have?

Jesse Barber: Most bats have one or two pups at a time, and only one genus of bats, lasiurus, have more than that, and they have four pups.

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