|1.1-5.5 inch (2.9-14 cm)
|Up to 100 mph (160 km/h)
|0.07-7 oz (2-200 g)
|Insects, fruits, animal blood
|Cats, birds of prey, snakes
|Worldwide (except Antarctic and Polar regions)
|The only mammal that is able to fly
Bats are the only flying mammals in the world. There are more than 900 species of microbats worldwide, with funny names like horseshoe bat, disc-winged bat, thumbless bat or hairy faced bat. This profile provides some general information on microbats.
Anatomy and Appearance
Size and Weight
The biggest microbat in the world is the Australian ghost bat. It has a body length of 4 to 5.5 inches (10-14 cm). The spectral bat has the widest wingspan. It can get up to 40 inches (102 cm). The smallest microbat is the Kitti's hog-nosed bat. Its body length is about 1.1 inches (29 mm). Because of its small size it is also called bumblebee bat.
Actually, bats' wings are long hands. That's why their scientific name is Chiroptera. It is composed of the Greek words for "hand" and "wing". Like us humans, they have one thumb and four fingers.
What Do Microbats Eat?
They feed on insects that we regard as particularly annoying ;) Especially flies, mosquitoes, fruit flies, beetles, wasps and stink bugs. There are also microbats that eat fruit, but fruit bats are actually better known for this.
Why Are Microbats Nocturnal?
At night there are more insects to catch. Also, fewer enemies are active during the night.
Like bears, microbats try to put on enough fat for hibernation. This is necessary to regain the normal body temperature at waking up. During hibernation the temperature significantly decreases. In frost-free caves it lies a little bit above the ambient temperature. Mostly, the animals huddle together in their homes to consume as little energy as possible.
Senses and Abilities
Sense of Hearing
Of all their senses, their sense of hearing is the most developed. They can hear sounds up to 200,000 Hertz. Humans can only perceive a frequency of up to 20,000 Hertz. Surprisingly, the animals can hear low sounds very well, too.
Microbats use echolocation to navigate at night. They emit ultrasounds up to 200 times per second. The sound waves are being reflected by objects and prey such as insects. Thus, the bat exactly knows where it is and can locate its prey.
Microbats have a magnetic sense. They can perceive the earth's magnetic field and use it for orientation when flying.
Although most species of microbats are nocturnal, they also use the sunset as a guide. It helps them determine their position and direction of flight. Researchers call this the solar compass. Of course, it doesn't work on cloudy days.
Microbats are so amazing! Their sense of sight was long thought to be completely uninteresting. But in 2014 researchers have found that they are actually among the few animals that can see polarized light. See our mantis shrimp profile for more on this.
Are Microbats Blind?
Blind as a bat? Although microbats mainly rely on echolocation, they are not completely blind. They just can't see very well ;) (unlike fruit bats).
Importance For the Ecosystem
Microbats are very important: they keep the number of insects and therefore nature in balance.
Enemies and Threats
Their natural enemies include cats, martens, birds of prey and owls. But parasites, bacteria and viruses can also be deadly for the animals. The greatest threat to them, however, is man because of the destruction of their natural habitats. Wind turbines are also a problem. Bats are under special protection in Europe because they are considered to be an endangered animal species.
|Brown long-eared bat
|1.5 inches (4 cm)*
|Kitti's hog-nosed bat
|1.1 inches (29 mm)
|40 inches (102 cm)
|Tube-lipped nectar bat
|2.9 inches (7.5 cm)*
|Mexican free-tailed bat
|10,000 feet (3,000 meters)
|Mexican free-tailed bat
|100 mph (160 km/h)
* Body length: 1.9 inches (5 cm)!
The Largest Microbat Colony
The largest known microbat colony is located in Texas (USA), in a cave called „Bracken Cave“. The colony consists of 20 million (!) Mexican free-tailed bats. It is also the largest congregation of mammals in one place.
Myths and Truths
Do Microbats Suck Blood?
Yes, there are microbats that feed on the blood of mammals. They are called vampire bats. Sometimes they do bite people. There is no need to fear that microbats could suck a high amount or even all the blood, but they could pass on diseases through a bite. Vampire bats live exclusively in America - from the north of Mexico to the south of Chile/Argentina.
Are Microbats Dangerous?
Many people are afraid of bats because there are many disturbing stories about them: They are said to be relatives of the devil, wrap themselves up in women’s hair and suck the blood of sleeping humans. The microbat has a bad reputation, although the trademark of one rather famous superhero is a bat costume ... Batman! At least for the Chinese the bat is a lucky charm and the Maya worshiped the bat as a god.
But: Microbats can bite and transmit rabies. That's why you should never touch them.
Microbats in the Apartment
What can be done if a microbat gets lost in your apartment? First of all, keep calm. Open the window and turn off all lights. Important: As soon as the microbats are outside, look behind curtains, in vases, behind furniture and picture frames. When they are all gone, it's best to keep the windows closed for a few days. Otherwise: Call a specialist.
Not All Bats are Microbats
There is another kind of bat: the fruit bats or flying foxes, which belong to the megabats. No, it has nothing in common with a fox. Contrary to the insect-eating bats, the fruitbat prefers to feed on ... fruits, nectar and pollen. Instead of echolocation they use their sharp eyes and ears to navigate.
It is said that microbats always fly in the left direction when leaving their caves. But why? Presumably they let themselves be guided by the moon. When it is rising it appears on the left side from the bat’s perspective. But this is just a myth. Bats take all kinds of different directions when leaving their caves. Right, left, upwards or straight onwards.
The Microbat Is Related To:
- Free-Tailed Bat
- Fruit Bat
- Horseshoe Bat
- Leaf-Nosed Bat
Animals in the Same Biome:
Video: 15 Facts About Bats
(Video opens on YouTube)