02 January 2009


My Christmas journey to Las Vegas, the least Christmasy place in the United States, including at visit to the Nevada State Museum which had an exhibit on bats.

There are about 1,100 species of this order of mammals, and most (about 70%) are insect eaters, and many of the remainder eat small animals or fruit. Three species, all found only in Latin America, drink blood -- typically "milking" a small incision in a way that does not kill the cattle or pig targeted, rather than draining its blood and killing it. None of them typically weigh more than about two ounces.

Bats found in the New World rarely have wing spans of over 22 inches and all echolocate. New World fruit eating bats are mostly members of the New World leaf-nosed bat family (which has 148 species including the three species of vampire bats).

The largest bats are the Old World Fruit Bats (also known as the Megabats). Some species have wing spans up to five feet, eat fruit, and with one exception among their 173 species, do not echolocate (the Egyptian fruit bat Rousettus egyptiacus, is the only megabat that echolocates). They are not native to the New World.

The biggest threat to humans from bats is the rare event of a rabies infection, something that happened approximately once per year for the entire United States in the period from 1980 to 2000, and only two of those were aware that they had been bitten by bats (about half did recall contact with bats, however). About 99.5% of bats are rabies free, and bats rarely bite humans.

Also notable was my discovery that unlike poisonous snakes, the two American species of venemous lizards do not have fangs.

1 comment:

Dave Barnes said...

"Hickenlooper... [n]ow shares a great deal with Bennet"

I'll say: both are graduates of http://www.wesleyan.edu