Bats are flying mammals in the order Chiroptera. The forelimbs of bats are webbed and developed as wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight. By contrast, other mammals said to fly, such as flying squirrels, gliding possums and colugos, glide rather than fly, and can only glide for short distances. Bats do not flap their entire forelimbs, as birds do, but instead flap their spread out digits, which are very long and covered with a thin membrane.
There are about 1,240 bat species worldwide, which represent about twenty per cent of all classified mammal species. About seventy percent of bats are insectivores. Most of the rest are fruit eaters. A few species such as the Fish-eating Bat feed from animals other than insects, with the vampire bats being the only mammalian parasite species. Bats are present throughout most of the world and perform vital ecological roles such as pollinatingflowers and dispersing fruit seeds. Many tropical plant species depend entirely on bats for the distribution of their seeds.
Bat echolocation is a perceptual system where ultrasonic sounds are emitted specifically to produce echoes. By comparing the outgoing pulse with the returning echoes the brain and auditory nervous system can produce detailed images of the bat’s surroundings. This allows bats to detect, localize and even classify their prey in complete darkness. At 130 decibels in intensity, bat calls are some of the most intense airborne animal sounds.
In the United Kingdom all bats are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Acts, and even disturbing a bat or its roost can be punished with a heavy fine.
Over coming months we will be working in conjunction with Gwynedd Bat Group to help protect and boost the bat population here at Bodfuan. Together we will be improving habitats and creating and mounting purpose-built bat-boxes across the shoot. Gwynedd Bat Group are also helping us to identify the specific species of bats present at the shoot to enable us to plan for their conservation in the future.