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Winged Superlatives: The Ancient and Modern Diversity of Bats

Which bat would be voted "most likely to eat insects" in their high school yearbook?

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Hassianycteris ate larger moths and beetles. The largest bat at Messel, it had narrow wings and was probably a fast flier that hunted in open spaces near lakes and above the forest canopy.....[ More ]

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Archaeonycteris feasted on beetles. Like Paleochiropteryx , this short-winged bat probably foraged near vegetation. But it may have specialized in gleaning prey from surfaces rather than catching them in the air.....[ More ]

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Palaeochiropteryx fed on small moths and caddis flies. With its small body and short wings, this bat likely foraged close to the ground and near vegetation, hunting from perches and hawking insects while in slow flight.....[ More ]

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Bats that subsist on nectar--this Glossophaga soricina among them--have simplified teeth and elongated snouts that can fit inside flowers. Many possess long, extensible tongues similar to those of anteaters.....[ More ]

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Vampire bats, such as this Desmodus rotundus , have bladelike teeth for making tiny cuts in the skin of their prey, from which they lap their blood meals. Vampires are good fliers, but they are unusual among bats in also having long thumbs and robust hind limbs that help them approach their victims by walking rather than flying.....[ More ]

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Fruit-eating bats, including Ectophylla alba , often have shorter faces and simpler molars than their insect- and meat-eating cousins do. They retain large canines for grasping fruit, however. Small-bodied with short, broad wings, Ectophylla specializes in finding small fruits in the forest understory.....[ More ]

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Vampyrum spectrum and other carnivorous bats are typically larger than their insect- eating cousins, although their teeth are similar. Most have short, broad wings good for maneuvering close to obstacles while hunting.....[ More ]

BAT DIVERSITY

Insectivorous bats, as represented here by Eptesicus fuscus , tend to have long snouts and teeth with sharp, interlocking cusps, for puncturing and slicing prey. With moderately long, broad wings, it is a strong, agile flier.....[ More ]

LONGEST TONGUE:

At 8.5 centimeters, the tongue of Anoura fistulata , the tube-lipped nectar bat, is 150 percent the length of its body. This bat feeds on the nectar of a tubular flower called Centropogon nigricans and is its only known pollinator.....[ More ]

MOST GREGARIOUS:

Tadarida brasiliensis , the Mexican free-tailed bat, lives in colonies composed of up to millions of individuals. Bracken Cave outside of San Antonio, Tex., houses 20 million of these crea­tures--the largest colony known.....[ More ]

LOUDEST:

Noctilio leporinus , the greater bulldog bat, utters a high-frequency screech that can be more than 140 decibels--100 times louder than a rock concert.....[ More ]

LARGEST:

Pteropus vampyrus , the large flying fox, has a wingspan of almost two meters.....[ More ]

SMALLEST:

Craseonycteris thonglongyai , the bumblebee bat, weighs less than a penny.....[ More ]

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