Bats
Michael J. Ellis
Nov 08, 1991

If tee-shirt motifs are any indication, then bats are definitely in this summer. In Batman even chic Vicky Veil says that she likes bats. Well it’s about time that these much-maligned mammals got some of the respect they deserve

Consider their shoddy reputation. For centuries folks have associated bats with the mysterious and with evil. Most people still believe that bats routinely get tangled up in your hair and that all bats are rabid. People like me that actually like bats are considered to have bats in their belfry.

They’re an ancient group of mammals that have been around for at least the last 65 million years. While there are gliding possums, flying squirrels and soaring lemurs the only mammals that can truly fly are the bats.

But bats are great! They rule the night sky and navigate through total darkness with sophisticated sonar. They emit high frequency sounds that are focused by their mouth or nose and reflect off the environment. The returning sound waves form a “sound picture” in the bats brain. This image is extremely detailed; they can even discern a wire the size of a human hair.

Bats can turn on a dime. They frequently catch insects not in their mouth but in the skin stretched between the tail and the rear legs or even in their wings. The skin basically acts as a baseball mitt. After catching the insect, the bats toss it into their mouth. Just like professional baseball players they snag flies for a living. There’s a colony of bats in Texas that eats 250,000 lbs of insects every night. Holy Bat Guano.

There’s around 15 species of bats that live in the Bay area. Unfortunately like many other wild animals their number has dropped dramatically in the past 20 years. This is due to persecution, habitat destruction and especially but increased use of pesticides. And while bats don’t fight crime, they do eat a lot of insects and most people agree anything that eats flying insects can’t be bad. I don’t know about you but I’d rather have bats in my belfry than pesticide-tainted food.

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.

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November 5, 2010