Bats in Question: The Smithsonian Answer Book
Don E. Wilson
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Long the subject of myth and superstition, bats have been among the most misunderstood of mammals due to their nocturnal habits, capacity for flight, and strange appearance. Seeking to dispel the myths associated with these remarkable creatures and arguing for their key role in a balanced ecosystem, Bats in Question covers all aspects of bat biology in a practical question-and-answer format.
Describing where bats live, how they use echolocation to navigate, and even why they hang upside down, the book also gives the conservation status of all 925 bat species. Don E. Wilson traces the evolution of bats and shows their remarkable diversity by describing each of the major groups in terms of their different body structures and habitats. He sheds light on bats' complex social systems, extraordinary variation in size, and food preferences that encompass plants, insects, and mammals. The book also explores cultural attitudes about bats—telling how, until recently, bats had been relegated to the world of vampires and how they have emerged to take their place in public awareness as important and fascinating members of our ecosystems.
echolocation is paramount, whereas Megachiroptera have better developed olfactory and visual areas. Another component to the brain size issue is almost surely related to habitat complexity. Those species that deal with spatially complex habitats, such as rain forests, probably need more and better abilities to store and use sensory information than do those that deal with spatially simple habitats, such as grasslands. This idea has not been well tested in bats, although there are some intriguing
are also remarkably uniform in many respects. All bats have the abilities of flight and echolocation, they all have the same general body form, and all have certain similarities in skin and fur, wings, teeth, reproductive systems and patterns, visual acuity, and hearing systems (Figure 1.3). TABLE 1.1. DISTRIBUTION OF BATS AMONG THE VARIOUS SUBTAXA OF ORDER CHIROPTERA Suborder and Family Number of Genera Number of Species Megachiroptera Pteropodidae 42 166 Microchiroptera Rhinopomatidae 1 3
and nectar feeders by and large, although almost all take fruit on occasion as well. Blossom bats belong to the genus Syconycteris, which contains three species in Australia and New Guinea, and on nearby islands (Figure 2.5). They are among the smallest megabats, smaller than many microbats and about the same size as most common bats in North America. Figure 2.5. A southern blossom bat, Syconycteris australis, pollinating a swamp banksia plant. Figure 2.6. Banana bats, Pipistrellus nanus,
an elongate rostrum to facilitate its nectar-feeding habits. Figure 1.8. (right) A Leschenault’s rousette, Rousettus leschenaulti, particularly anxious to get on with its meal. This species’ long, thin jaws imply a diet of soft, pulpy fruit. Other bats, notably some fruit-eating species, have jaws that are considerably shortened and bear curved dental arcades, with the teeth tightly packed on both upper and lower jaws (Figure 1.9). Short, thick jaws are more common in species that specialize on
woodi Wood’s slit-faced bat No assessment Family Megadermatidae—false vampire and yellow-winged bats Genus Cardioderma C. cor Heart-nosed bat No assessment Genus Lavia L. frons Yellow-winged bat No assessment Genus Macroderma M. gigas Australian ghost bat Vulnerable Genus Megaderma Asian false vampire bats M. lyra Greater false vampire bat No assessment M. spasma Malayan false vampire bat No assessment Family Rhinolophidae—horseshoe bats Genus Rhinolophus Horseshoe bats R. acuminatus Acuminate