A look at bats biology and lifestyle.

Bats { Vespertilionidae} are a very numerous family of mammals belonging to the Order Chiroptera {animals with winged hands} So called because the skin between the fingers of the anterior {of or near the head end} extremities, between these and the posterior {near the hind end} ones, and in some instances between the posterior ones including the tail, are so much produced and capable of extension as to be able to fly.

They have the general structure of a mammal and the motion of a bird.  The "Ancients" called them aves non aves " Birds yet not birds". 

The characters of the bat as a group are--- the skin of the sides produced into a broad thin membrane, which extends to the points of the toes;the toes, or fingers {digits} of the forelegs are very much produced, and untied by a thin  and broad membrane. The thumbs are are separated from the fingers, generally short, and furnished with a strong hooked claw, which the fingers are generally without. The membrane wholly or nearly naked and having a leathery appearance.

The hind legs are much shorter than the forelegs, the toes on them much smaller and each of the toes again furnished with a hook claw. The length of the tail varies, being in some species merely rudimental, it is generally included in the membrane, but does not seem to be efficient help in steering or even as a rudder. This seems to be done, in the main, by the motions of the hind legs, while the forelegs are the main implements of flight.

The hind legs have no peculiar muscular structure by means of which they can be very efficient in moving wings, and, when the animal is extended, the motion which they have is horizontal rather than vertical. 

The forelegs on the other hand have little horizontal motion, and cannot be moved much either in advance or to the rear, however, their vertical motion is powerful, and in order to give insertion to the large pectoral {chest} muscles which produce it. The sturnum or breast bone is provided with a prominent ridge. The shoulder joint allows considerable range both of elevation and depression, but the joints of the elbows, wrists, and fingers, do not allow to be stretched beyond a straight line.

Long eared bat Illustration.

Drawing by Ernst Haeckel --1904

A Pipistrelle bat in flight, this is the commonest species in the UK.

Photograph courtesy of Barracuda {Creative Commons Attribution}

The "wings" membrane is very light and thin and this allows them to be folded into very little space, when the bat is a rest {see photograph below}. The mouth has the general characters to other mammals which feed on insects and other small invertebrates but with some modifications.  The gape of the mouth extends very far back and it also opens wider than in most mammals of the same size..In this respect it has some resemblance to the gape of bills of birds that eat insects in flight such as the swift and nightjar. The nightjar like the bat is nocturnal or twilight feeders.

The front or incisor teeth vary greatly in different species, the canine are generally large, and the grinders have short protuberances. The sense organs are also variably developed. The ears are in general large and in some species they have a second concha { shell shaped ear} as if it were one ear within another, thus it is generally assumed that the sense of hearing is acute.

The nostrils and also the mouth are sometimes surrounded by membranes. The eyes are very small somewhat like those of the mole and though they have the power of vision it does not seem to essential as echo-location is the main tool of navigation.



Pipistrelle bat with wings folded.

Photograph courtesy of Vantoux-et-Longevelle { creative commons attribution}

Many differing species.

Courtesy of MathKnight CC BY -SA 4.0 License.Wikipedia-Bats-001-v01.jpg

Bats breed at the hottest time of the year, giving birth to live young. During the winter months they hibernate. In Britain all bats are harmless to humans and all of them are insectivores, ridding the air of many of its insect inhabitants, and by gleaming them from the foliage of trees.

There are several species of bats in the UK , many of them rare, and all of them fully protected by the law. the rarer species are subject to a Species Action Plan under the auspice of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan {BAP}.

All of them appear on Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 { as amended} which means that they, their young and roosts are fully protected by law. It is an offence to disturb them even if they are roosting in the attic space of your home.

Many myths surround the bat, thanks to horror films such as Dracula. One of the commonest myths is that bats get entangled in your hair. The chances of this occurring is as likely as winning the Lottery -Twice!

Fruit bat is a mega bat.

Public domain Wikicommons.


September-2013 Fungus that causes White nose syndrome has been found in the UK for the first time.

The fungus that causes the White Nose Syndrome disease in America that has killed 5.7 million bats , has been found in the UK for the first time. Click on the Conservation Issues 2013 banner, on the right hand side of this page. Scroll down to September 2013 to read more about this development.

 Little brown bat affected by white nose syndrome.  Public domain courtesy of the USFWS


Associated pages. Click on the content banners on the right hand side of this page.

Brown long eared bat.

Wildlife Law-1

Other mammals that feature on this site can be viewed by clicking on the relevant content banners. { they are all grouped together.} 

Mammal Society., 

By clicking on the Links banner and scrolling down to the relevant link, there is  a direct link to the site home page.

Links-- Bat Conservation Trust.

Links--Mammal Society. 

Links--My green logos {designers}

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Bat's in your home- help

Do you have bats in any of your buildings. For help and/or advise ring 0845 1300 228.

The nation help line is changing from the above number to 0345 1300 228 {May 2015} 

Bats Habitat Regulations Bill February 2016 { important update}


Type the above address into your search bar to read a report on the update of this important bill concerning bats. 

Reuse of images

The images on this page may be reused, however, the name of the relevant author must be attributed along with any accompanying license