Skip to page content

More about Bats

The world’s true flying mammal!

Have you seen a bat flying? They’re pretty cool to watch, and they are the only mammals able to do it! Unlike “flying” squirrels that glide from tree to tree, bats are able to flap their wings, take off and move through the air at high speeds!

Their Latin name “Chiroptera” translates to “hand-wing”. There are over 1200 species of bats belonging to either one of the two major groups - Megachiroptera or Microchiroptera!

Megabats are made up of the flying foxes and fruit bats in the warmer tropical climates where they can find a lot of their favourite foods – fruits, flowers and pollen – yum! The other 800 or so species are Microbats and are mostly insectivorous (mmm insects!). Microbats use echolocation to find their meals at night.

Lesser short tailed bat. Photographer B. D. Lloyd. Image courtesy of DOC

Lesser short-tailed bat. Photographer B. D. Lloyd. Image courtesy of DOC

Lesser short tailed bat. Photographer B. D. Lloyd. Image courtesy of DOC 3

Lesser short-tailed bat. Photographer B. D. Lloyd. Image courtesy of DOC

Lesser short tailed bat. Photographer B. D. Lloyd. Image courtesy of DOC 2

Lesser-short-tailed-bat. Photographer B.D Lloyd.Image courtesy of DOC

 

What is echolocation?

Echolocation is used by some animals to navigate and find food. It’s a bit like radar! This is also called biosonar. Bats are not the only animals that use echolocation – some birds, shrews, whales and dolphins do as well. However the skill is the most highly developed in bats!

Tuning in for broadcast...

Did you know – just like its very own radio station, each microbat species uses a different frequency for echolocation.

Frequency is a measure of sound waves. Higher frequencies mean higher pitches. Humans are able to hear frequencies between 20 Hertz (Hz) to 20,000 Hz (20 kilo Hz) and dogs can hear between 40 Hz to 60 kHz! Bats typically use much higher frequencies for echolocation – anything between 8 kHz to 212 kHz!

Click to listen to a long-tailed bat sonar 

How does it work?

Echolocation is sort of like a sixth sense because a bat can tell a lot about its environment from sonar. Clicks of sound are made through the bat’s mouth, or sometimes noses, and the echo that bounces back off objects is picked up by their highly sensitive ears.

Bats can tell how far away the object is by detecting how long it took for the echo to reach its ears. They work out the direction the echo came from by which ear received the sound first. By deciphering both the timing and loudness of echoes, bats get a pretty good picture of where it is going and what insect it is chasing!

Do you know what radio frequencies our bats echolocate at?

Long-tailed bat                 40 kHz

Short-tailed bat                28kHz