Do Bats Have Tails? Fascinating Facts You May Not Know

Ritwik Bhuyan
Mar 01, 2024 By Ritwik Bhuyan
Originally Published on Nov 02, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Niyati Parab
Bats flying on blue sky
Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.3 Min

Most bat species in the world have tails, with some having tails extending far beyond the uropatagium, while tails of others encased within the uropatagium.

Apart from the bats that hide their tails, there are bat species like bumblebee bats that have no tails at all. Only three species of bats do not possess tails out of the 1000 varieties of bats found in the world.

When we say tails, the anatomical system of a bat's tail is not the same as other mammals. Tails in bats are quite small and very difficult to spot. Each species of bat has different tail characteristics as the free-tailed bat has the tail extending out of the wings, while in other species the tail does not reach out to the wings. There are a lot of ways that bats use their tails and in this article, we will dive deeper into this.

Bats are the only true mammals that have the ability to flight even though bats share the same characteristics as other mammals - hair and the ability to give birth to live young into the world. Squirrels and lemurs glide by the furred membranes and do not actually fly, however, bats have the anatomical features that let them have a full-powered flight.

You must have noticed bats hanging down the trees near your house. It has also been described in old-world folklore and mythologies and the vampire we have read about is based on bats hanging down trees. There are thousands of species of bats that have tails, so listing them would be a hectic task. But we do know there are only three species of bats that do not have tails. Bats usually have very small tails that are not even visible unless you watch them closely. You will definitely not be able to notice the tails when the bats are awake or flying in the sky. The tails in bats vary in size and the categorization is based on the anatomical features with respect to a bat's tail. A free-tailed bat tail is actually so small that you won't be able to tell the difference between the tail and the wing membrane. A bat's tail can be called a downward continuation of the wing membrane and the hind legs are connected to the uropatagium membrane. This also covers the tail bone of the bat species. The hind legs support the bat's tail. As the membrane covers the tails of the bats, they are not usually seen. However, some species of bats do have longer tails that looks like it doesn't have the wing membrane. They do have a wing membrane within the tail and are covered with small hair. Mexican free-tailed bats have longer ones.

Bats, similar to birds, use their tails to fly. It is quite a natural phenomenon and the membranes help the tail support it better. Only with the help of the tail, bats can take off from any surface. The mammals flutter the tails than the wings that help the bats lift and fly. The hind legs are not strong enough to support that solely. The length of the tail skeleton also doesn't matter as it helps the mammals keep direction, balance, and stability whatever the length.

The bats with a long tail skeleton can also bring their prey to their mouth easily. Mother bats also use the tail along with the membranes and wings to carry the baby bat. For a stable flight, bats that have tails use it for balance and flying off the surface.

Read on to find out more! If you enjoy this article, why not also read about do beavers eat fish and do carpenter ants have wings here on Kidadl?

Do bats have tails?

Not all bats have tails, but many bat species have a tail that helps them in many ways. Flying is just one of the perks of having a tail.

Bats have a wing membrane that stretches between the fingers of the bats and resembles a human hand. Most of the species of bats have tail skeletons and only a few species lack this membrane. This tail is not the same as any other mammal in the animal kingdom. In fact, animal species like dogs and birds have tails, but in no way resemble one like bats. A bat's tail is small and is easily concealed from human eyes. The anatomical features of the tail of a bat also change from species to species. As we have already read, most tails in bat species don't even come out of the membrane. We see long features in the tail in the free-tailed bat.

Most people are not even aware of the fact that a bat has a tail similar to a bird, which also helps in flight. The tail of the free-tailed bat, for instance, is covered with cartilage. This allows them to retract and protract and helps maneuver and navigate during flight. The tail is also attached to the wing membrane. The hind legs are also attached to the said membrane partially in this species and completely in many others. The tail of a bat is the component of the bat's body that is supported by the tail skeletons, hind legs, and calcars. Calcars are special cartilaginous extensions of the ankle of the bat.

As a fact, a bat and a bird both use their tail in flight. Bats cannot lift off from flat surfaces as the hind legs are not strong enough to facilitate flight. A bat will always be resting from a hanging position. A bat hangs with the help of the elongated sections of the fingers in the body. A bat has to rely on the fingers in the body as the hind legs cannot support the total bodyweight alone. The bat will let go of the surface and flap the wings for flying.

Only the free-tailed bat, that has a longer tail is capable of taking flight from the surface. The tail extends far beyond the membrane, like that of a mouse. This bat species is capable of flapping the tail faster than the wings which helps them fly from a standing position, rather than a hanging one.

Do all bats have tails?

Not all, but most bats have a tail attached to the body which is so small that it is not easily seen if not watched closely.

There are over 1000 bat species in the world except the three that are known not to have tails. It is fascinating as while we can easily see the tails of birds, it is not the same with bats. Wing and membranes appear naked in bats, but if you watch closely, they are actually covered in small hair. All bats have tails, even though they are concealed. However, among them, there are three species of bats that do not have tails at all. The anatomy of a bat's tail is as diverse as the 1000 species of bats living life in the wild. It even goes beyond the visual cues of the human eye sometimes.

Tails are useful to bats as limbs are for us, as they help in stability and turning similar to our legs.

Brazilian free tailed bat

Bat Species That Don't Have A Tail

There are three bat species that lack tails altogether. This includes the smaller ones in the spectrum that do not have a tail.

There is a bat called the bumblebee bat that is so small that it cannot even conceive bat tails. Smaller than most birds, these species are common in the world, but hardly seen by humans. The extension of the skin does not appear to be present in these species like it was on the bigger mammal species of the spectrum.

There are other microbats that lack a tail. These bats are not able to take off from one position like the bigger bats. Except for these three species of bats, all other bats have tails of different sizes and use them to fly properly and for some other purposes that we will read in the coming topic.

What do bats use their tails for?

There are many uses of the tails that the bats possess starting with flying.

Bats have extremely powerful hind legs, but those are not enough to help them lift off from the surface. The legs of most bats in the world are not strong enough for the task of flying. Bird species have the ability to push off from the ground and lift, but the bat's legs are too thin to even do this part. For bats, the tails work together with the legs to help lift off and fly in the air. The main components that help a bat fly are the hind legs, tail, and calcar. Tails also help in maintaining stability as they are quite aerodynamic and help stay in the air. The tail also reduces drag while flying in the air. The tail also helps a bat navigate better in the air, turning and speeding at will. This helps in the search for food and insects at night.

The construction of tails in a bat and bird is quite different as birds have feathers and hollow bones while bats actually drop down and flap around to generate lift. Insectivorous bats like the little brown ones use the tail membrane to catch and eat insects in flight. Female bats also use their tail to carry their young around. There are various ways that bats use their tails to further help their way of life.

Bats can eat their body weight in food and feed on night prey - insects in thousands. However, different bat species have different diets, which include nectar, pollen, fruit, vertebrates, among insects.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for do bats have tails, then why not take a look at do bats eat mosquitoes or do all jellyfish sting?

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Written by Ritwik Bhuyan

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English

Ritwik Bhuyan picture

Ritwik BhuyanBachelor of Arts specializing in English

A skilled content writer, Ritwik holds a Bachelor's degree in English from Delhi University. He has refined his writing abilities through his past experience at PenVelope and his current role at Kidadl. In addition to his proficiency in writing, Ritwik has pursued his passion for flying by achieving CPL training and becoming a licensed commercial pilot. This diverse skill set highlights his commitment to exploring multiple fields. Ritwik's experience in the aviation industry has provided him with a unique perspective and attention to detail, which he brings to his writing.

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