Are Bats Birds? Fang-tastic Facts You Simply Can't 'Bat' Away | Kidadl


Are Bats Birds? Fang-tastic Facts You Simply Can't 'Bat' Away

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Bats and birds are related but have subtle aerodynamic differences.

Bats are familiar creatures and can be found living on trees or among old ruins. They have some fascinating characteristics and can easily be mistaken for a bird.

Bats prey on smaller insects like mosquitoes, flies, and some bugs. They are nocturnal animals who are most active at night when they come out to hunt their prey. A large number of bats live in forests and can transfer deadly viruses to human hosts, like the Ebola virus. Bats are of different colors- black, brown, and even red. Their bodies are covered in fur but not their wings. They have short snouts and sharp teeth to assist them in feeding. Their wings are actually hands that have evolved and are capable of flight. 

After you are done reading about bats and birds, do read other related fact files on what does bat poop look like and why do bats sleep upside down.

Why is a bat not called a bird?

Although bats and birds share some resemblance in terms of their external characters, bats and birds have several significant differences. Both bats and birds are avian species, have wings, strong bones, and can fly. Their streamlined bodies enable them to fly smoothly and efficiently. Birds and bats have similar feeding habits, which include small insects, flower nectar, and fruits. These are some of the main reasons people think that bats are birds, even though bats and birds do not belong to the same family. 

Bats are not Aves but mammals that belong to the scientific order called Chiroptera. Unlike birds, they lack feathers but have fur or hair on their bodies, excluding the wings. Like most mammals, bats are viviparous-that is; they give birth to live young ones, whereas birds are oviparous, meaning they lay eggs from which young ones hatch. Birds have beaks, but bats do not. Beaks are hard and help in protecting birds from predators and also to hunt and feed on their prey. Bats possess teeth instead to perform this function. They have incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. Canines are also commonly referred to as fangs. Their wings are supported by long fingers and have evolved to make them more flexible for traveling through air. The activity cycles of birds and bats are just the opposite, with birds being active during the day and resting at night, whereas bats rest during the daytime and work at night. They use echolocation for hunting down their prey and also to navigate. Echolocation is absent in birds. The life cycles of bats and birds differ too. Bats can live to a maximum of 30 years, but some birds live up to 100 years.

Do bats lay eggs or give birth? 

Animals can be classified into two broad types based on their nature of giving birth- Oviparous and Viviparous. Animals that lay eggs are called oviparous, and those giving birth to live young ones of their own kind are viviparous. Several animals like fishes, birds, and reptiles lay eggs while mammals are of viviparous type. Viviparous animals are at a greater advantage as the babies develop inside their bodies and do not suffer the threat of outside predators.

Bats being mammals from the order Chiroptera, follow viviparity, an important concept in science. Their babies are formed within their body, which naturally provides nutrition to the growing embryo. They feed their young ones with milk after they are born and protect them from external threats. Bats, however, have a slower rate of reproduction than birds and usually give birth only once per year. Thus, the family takes a long time to grow and develop. Some people believe that the baby bat or the pup emerges from the mouth of the female bats, which is not at all true. The babies come out from the normal reproductive passage of the bats, like all other mammals. The gestation period of bats can last from six to nine weeks and is one of the longest in the animal kingdom. Around the time of delivery, mother bats look for a warm and secure place and move there. Some bats use a different delivery spot each year, but most of them make it permanent.

Why are bats considered mammals?

Mammals are a group of animals that are characterized by the presence of body hair, the ability to give birth to their young ones, and a pair of milk-secreting mammary glands to nurture their babies. They are warm-blooded and can live on land, water, and air. They have a more complex and evolved brain structure than other animals. An interesting scientific fact is that all mammals except ant-eaters have teeth.

Similarly, bats give birth to live young ones, possess hair on their bodies, and have mammary glands that produce milk to feed their offspring. They are warm-blooded like all mammals and can regulate their body temperature on their own. Bats belong to that family of mammals that can fly. The skeletal structure of their wings consists of bones that match the bones present in a mammal’s hands and fingers. This gives them a firm grip and has adapted them for true flight. However, of all mammals, bats are the only ones with their knees bent backwards. This enables them to use their feet for gripping, and hence they are able to land on their feet. All these properties conclude that a bat is a mammal. Many believe that bats attack and bite humans, which is not valid. They are, in fact, peaceful creatures that mean no harm. However, they are carriers of several deadly viruses and diseases, and humans should try to avoid contact with them as best as possible.

Bats flying on blue sky.

Mammals That Can Fly

Did you know that bats are mammals? The earth has a great diversity of animals. Some of these animals live on land, the others in water and air. Many use feet for locomotion, while some use flippers and wings. Likewise, mammals too can use all three different structures for navigation and locomotion. Dolphins use flippers, and humans use feet. However, wings are not too common. There are only a handful of mammal species that can fly and let us see who bats are! Well, it is true that bats can fly like birds but bats are mammals.

Although bats are mammals and only one of the species capable of true flight, flying squirrels are another type of mammal that can fly to some extent. Their flight is not a true one, which means they cannot flap their wings and generate power or force to fly. They exhibit passive flight and can glide up to 1476.38 ft (450 m). Flying squirrels belong to the order Rodentia. Bats have a particular type of teeth that never stops growing. In the case of bats, their teeth stop growing after some time. Flying squirrels glide by extending the tip of the wings with the help of cartilage present in the wrist. Thus, bats cannot be classified as rodents. Bats use their wings to look for food and shelter and can travel up to 200 mi (321 km) in a year. They have connective tissue in their skin, along with nerves and blood vessels, which maintain the tightness of the membrane during flight. 

What are bats related to?

Evolution is the term used to refer to the change in the different characteristics of species from one generation to the next. Often, the evolved species have a close resemblance to the original ones. For example, birds have evolved from dinosaurs and have similar joint structures and sleep positions. Scientists believe that bats have evolved from small rodent-like species and share a few similarities with their ancestors. 

Bats have an advanced flying mechanism and have similar anatomical features as Insectivora, a type of mammal that includes shrews, hedgehogs, and moles. However, these two species might seem similar because they both are mammals. Bats are believed to have the maximum similarities with Dermoptera, an order of mammals that consist of the flying lemurs of colugos. They are abundantly found in the Philippines. Flying lemurs, despite their name, are not capable of flight, just like flying squirrels. They can glide and use a network of skin between their hands and legs to do so. Bats are also related to primates, which is another type of mammal comprising apes and humans. These mammals, because of their similarities, are sometimes collectively grouped into a category called Archonta. 

Reptiles are a class of cold-blooded animals, lay eggs and have dry, scaly skin. They can have either a three-chambered heart or four. They respire internally through their lungs, and the fertilization of their eggs takes place inside their body. Some examples of reptiles are snakes, lizards, turtles, and alligators.

Bats, too, have a four-chambered heart and a pair of lungs but are warm-blooded, have fur on their skin instead of scales, and feed their young ones. Unlike reptiles, they have wings and can fly. Some reptiles, like the Draco lizards, can fly, whereas the gliding lizard is capable of gliding. However, wings are absent in them, and they cannot travel long distances. A type of bats, called the vampire bats, feed entirely on blood, whereas no such example is observed in reptiles. They are primarily found in marine or marshy areas, though some of them, like lizards, can live in dry conditions. Snakes and bats both have fangs, but those of bats do not contain venom. Bats are not aggressive, unlike some reptiles like crocodiles, and do not bite or attack humans. Due to the above reasons, a bat cannot be considered a reptile. 

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for are bats birds then why not take a look at why do birds fly, or mouse tailed bat facts.

Kidadl Team
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Kidadl Team

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