And the answer: bats.
In early summer, bats typically give birth to one pup a year. They form maternity roosts where they can safely have their babies and care for their young. Quickly and carefully, the mother bat must hold onto the perch tightly, expel her pup, and then catch them with her wings just in time.
Though you likely have only caught glimpses of these elusive creatures as they swoop low to catch bugs on warm summer nights, bats leave a significant footprint on every ecosystem they touch. In fact, bats make up a quarter of all the world’s mammals, with over 1,100 species worldwide. And thank goodness, too, as bats can eat over a thousand mosquitoes per hour (that’s roughly equivalent to their total body weight)!
Bats are some of the most unique creatures on the planet. Although their tendencies, preferences, and even size can vary greatly across bat species, they typically live for up to 30 years and can fly at speeds of 60 miles per hour or more. Bats are also excellent at finding their food in complete darkness using echolocation. This process involves emitting inaudible high-pitched sounds (about 10-20 beeps per second), and listening to the echoes.
Bats have few natural predators, so bat populations are more often threatened by disease or human encroachment. Today, at least 12 types of US bats are endangered, and many more are threatened. A unique international conservation in the southwestern US and Mexico has been working to help one species recover—the lesser long-nosed bat—with the aim of increasing the population to remove them from the Endangered Species list. In 1988, there were thought to be fewer than 1,000 lesser long-nosed bats at the 14 known roosts range wide, but there are now an estimated 200,000 bats at 75 roosts!
Did you know?
This week, October 24-31, is Bat Week! Although these furry fliers might seem self-sufficient, recent threats to their habitats mean that they deserve as much recognition as ever. Bats help spread seeds for nuts, figs, and cacao, so without bats we might not have chocolate! Protect our bats (and our chocolate) by learning how to get involved with their conservation efforts here.