Bats are the only mammals in the world that are capable of sustained flight. Other mammals, such as flying squirrels or flying lemurs, can glide or parachute; the direction and speed of their movement is controlled, but they cannot actually fly.
Bats belong to the order Chiroptera, which is a large and diverse group with more than 1,400 species worldwide, representing about one-fifth of all mammal species. Bats’ wings are an evolutionary adaptation of the hand and arm, with elongated fingers connected by a thin membrane of skin.
Bats exhibit a wide variety of sizes and behaviors, but all share the characteristic of true flight. They play crucial roles in ecosystems around the world, including pollination, seed dispersal, and insect control. Many bats are insectivores, but others feed on fruits, nectar, small vertebrates, or even blood in the case of the vampire bats.
Unfortunately, many bat species are threatened by habitat loss, disease, hunting, and climate change. Bats are also often misunderstood and feared by humans, despite their importance to the environment. Educating people about bats’ vital ecological roles and dispelling myths about them are important steps in bat conservation efforts.