Bats are among the most misunderstood of all animals because of the irrational fear among people and the ignorance of the vital role that they play in the control of insects and aiding seed-dispersal and pollination of several plant species. There are now more than 1000 known species which are among the largest groups of mammals followed by the rodents. They have unique and unusual ability of powered flight for mammals led to the success and diversification. Due to this bats can be found on every continent except Antarctica. Bats are of two kinds, according to their food habits, they can be classified as insect-eating bats (micro bats) and fruit-eating bats (mega bats). The former navigate by echo location, emit ultrasounds that is inaudible to human ear, then "read" as they bounce back from the obstacles to the bat's highly sensitive ear receptors. Unlike micro bats, mega bats do not use echo location, but rely rather on their sharp eyesight and acute sense of smell.
The fruit bats are sometimes called "flying foxes" on account of their fox-like snouts. There are 12 species of fruit bats in India. Among these, the Indian flying fox is the largest of all fruit bats with a wing span of about one meter. The smallest bat is called a Bumblebee bat and can be found in Thailand. It weighs less than 20 gms. India is proud to have a rare and endemic fruit bat, named after Salim Ali (Latidens salimalii) which entered the Guinness Book of World Records in 1993 as one of the rarest bats of the world. This endemic Indian species is only recorded from the confines of the High Wavy Tea and Coffee Estates (Kardana coffee estate) near Chinnamanur in the Madurai district of Tamil Nadu. The fulvous fruit bat and the short-nosed fruit bat are common throughout the country.
With an excellent sense of smell, they detect food at distances of a mile or more. The Indian short-nosed fruit bat is an efficient pollinator. They are active feeders, eating fruits more than their body weight in several sittings. They normally nest high in palm trees. Flying foxes play a pivotal role on multifarious ecosystems as the pollinators and seed dispersers for a diverse array of plants. They play a crucial part in plant reproduction of countless species as they fly from flower to flower sipping nectar. Insect eating bats also proved beneficial as a single little brown bat can eat 1,200 mosquitoe-sized insects in just one hour.
Thursday, January 8, 2009