Bats (Eng.), Murciélagos (Sp.), Chiroptera Information compiled by Víctor M. Cuevas, Biological Scientist, EYNF/LEF

General Notes

Bats are in the order CHIROPTERA which comes from the Greek for "hand" (cheiro) and "wing" (ptera), and are more closely related to humans than they are to birds. Bats, like humans, are mammals (birds are not mammals). As a matter of fact bats are more closely related to humans on a biochemical level than they are to mice, which are also mammals!  Does anyone you know remind you of a bat? Bats are also a much younger group than birds with the earliest bat fossils coming from the Jurassic Period, a mere 65 millions years ago.

Bats live in caves, but also in trees, under bridges, and maybe in your house. Eleven of the thirteen species of bats who live in Puerto Rico can be found in the rain forest, but NO, NONE OF THE BATS OF PUERTO RICO ARE VAMPIRES.

Vampire bats do exist elsewhere. Scientists have recently found that the component of vampire bat saliva which prevents blood from clotting in a wound holds promise as an effective drug to prevent heart attacks in humans; someday, a vampire bat might save your life.

Some cultures revere bats as bearers of good fortune or messengers from the spirit world. Where bats are diurnal people see and understand them; where bats are nocturnal some people are afraid of them. Don't be afraid of bats!!

Bats are the only indigenous mammal remaining on Puerto Rico. Bats feed on flowers, fruit, insects, birds and fish, and are vitally important in pollination and insect control. How important? Worldwide, more than 300 economically important plant species producing over 450 commercial products are known to depend on bats; just one of these products, a fruit called durian, contributes $120,000,000 (one hundred and twenty million dollars) each year to the economy of Southeast Asia.

And some bats eat as many as 1200 insects per hour, so if you like sitting outside after sunset but don't like the mosquitoes, thank a bat.... twelve hundred times every hour!

Bats and whales both communicate and locate things by ECHOLOCATION, nature's sonar developed both in the air and water. Bats are not blind, but with the use of echolocation and the fact that so many of them feed at night when there is little light, their eyes are of less importance than their hearing.

How are bats like bears? Both bats and bears in northern climates hibernate during cold weather, but since it doesn't get cold in Puerto Rico, bats here don't hibernate. We don't have bears, either.

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