Monday, May 23, 2016

Things to love about bats

The bodies of bats are soft, their bellies round and full. They can squeeze down small or stretch their umbrella-wings out, impossibly wide. They are mammals that can fly!

Bats live in boxes and caverns, attics and underpasses, forests and barns. Most bats live in colonies and rely on one another for warmth, so snuggling is a way of life.  Solitary-living bats gather in groups during migration. Baby bats nurse from their mothers while in flight.

You can see a bat's perfect bones through its translucent wings. The skin stretching between a bat's fingers is as thin as my eyelid. A bat's bones are not hollow, like a bird's. Their bones are small, but solid.

The furry faces of bats are perfectly evolved to be sensitive. Some use their ears to navigate, others use their nose. Bats can see as well as any other animal can see in the dark, but they can hear things that other animals can't. They listen constantly. Darkness is not a problem for bats.

Bats have sharp teeth that they use to eat bugs (which is helpful) or fruit (which is delicious). Even bats that eat blood only bother grazing cattle, which have plenty. Although it sounds scary, all carnivores eat blood -- the vampire bat just dispenses with the wrapping.

The way bats work doesn't make a lot of sense. If you tried to make bats act like another kind of animal, they wouldn't be able to do it. Their feet are for hanging, not walking; their arms are for flying, not feeding. Some use their nose to hear, others use their ears to see.

Bats just do their thing. You can hate a bat and she'll just go back to her nap. If it's night-time, she might pause to consider, and then she'll let go. As she falls, with a few pulls of her arms she will lift herself neatly up between earth and sky. Above the trees, a bat doesn't care what you think. A bat is at home with the moon and the stars.

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