Chiroptera is the order of the only mammals that are able to fly, bats! The word itself means ‘hand-wing’. This will make more sense if we observe the anatomy of bats’ wings (1).
Another great feature is the backward-bending knee, which makes landing and hanging head-down easy (2).
Depending on each species’ mode of life, they have other features, such as ear and tail variations, different facial skin growths, and echolocation.
But... what does echolocation mean? If you’ve been following Oddity’s story, you would have heard of this term a few times, but in case you’ve missed it, here’s a brief explanation: First of all, bats are not blind! Although bats can see, they use echolocation to fly around and hunt for insects in the dark. They usually emit high-pitched sounds that reflect off the object and return to the bats’ ears (similar to a sonar).
Although this isn’t the only sound that bats can emit, as you can also hear a chattering sound (low-frequency) from active colonies.
There are 18 bat species in the UK, and all of them are insectivorous. But different species have different strategies, however most catch their prey during flight: Sometimes in their mouth; and if they’re larger insects, they’re often caught either in the interfemoral membrane or in a cupped wing.
Most bat roosts are found in hollow trees (download our poster here) or buildings, and some occur in caves or tunnels during hibernation. Why don’t you take a look at Oddity’s winter issue to find out more about hibernation?