Bats are such misunderstood creatures. The frequent subject of dark and scary stories and myths, they have accumulated a bad rap over centuries. But really, they are vital members of ecosystems worldwide, acting as a natural pest control by eating insects and helping to pollinate plants and disperse seeds. While some species can be a little creepy to look at, many bat species are downright adorable. We've gathered up examples of just how cute these important animals can be, so we get over that irrational fear and start appreciating them for all they do for us.
Photo above is a wee baby Egyptian fruit bat, a species found throughout Africa and the Middle East that loves to eat wild dates. As he gets bigger, his cute-factor will only increase:
Photo: Michael Rolands /Shutterstock
California leaf-nosed bat: Found in Mexico and the U.S., this species loves the desert heat. You can find these bats in the Sonoran and Mojave deserts, where they dine on insects like crickets, grasshoppers and moths. It is also a particularly skilled flier, able to fly at low speeds using minimal energy, and can maneuver in flight better than many other bat species. Plus, ears!!
Photo: Dr. Brendan P. O'Connor/Flickr
Honduran white bat: So different from most bats, this adorable species is a beautiful snow white, with yellow ears and nose. It is also itty bitty, only a few inches in length. The species is a "tent-making bat", roosting along the ribs of large leaves, which they make into a tent-like structure by nibbling at the side veins. This roosting technique protects them from weather and predators as they rest.
Photo: Geoff Gallice/wikipedia
Anyone for a marshmallow? Oh, wait...
Indian flying fox: This species is one of the largest of the bats, with a wingspan that can reach 4-5 feet. Because fruit bats eat all sorts of different fruits, they are vital pollinators. This species can travel anywhere from 9 to 40 miles in a night, so its importance to wide seed dispersal and pollination can't possibly be understated.
Photo: gallimaufry /Shutterstock
Big brown bat: A cute bat with a cute name. This fuzzy little guy can be found in North America, Central America and the very northern parts of South America. They are a huge benefit to people because they dine on insects often considered pests, including moths, beetles and wasps. Unfortunately, white-nose syndrome is a serious threat to this and other bat species.
Photo: StevenRussellSmithPhotos /Shutterstock
Dwarf epauletted fruit bat: This ridiculously cute species is small, only 3-3.7 inches in length. Found in Africa, they eat small fruits, nectar, and pollen. Too many times bats are dissed as "flying rats". Well here's three cheers for a flying mouse, a flying Mighty Mouse!
Photo: Ivan Kuzmin / Shutterstock
Photo:Ivan Kuzmin /Shutterstock
Brown long-eared bat: This European bat species also has particularly long ears, with a distinctive fold at the bottom. But even with such ears, this species relies on its eyes as much as its ears for finding prey. It dines mainly on moths found among the leaves and bark of trees.
Photo: Gucio_55 /Shutterstock
It also likes to play peek-a-boo:
Photo: Gucio_55 /Shutterstock
Striped yellow-eared bat: This adorable bat is found in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Panama in mature evergreen forests. However, its cute-factor isn't sparing it from a concerning loss of habitat to human deforestation and habitat degradation. Thankfully, it is also found in protected areas, which will help slow the decline of the species' population.
Photo: Karin Schneeberger/Wikipedia
Mediterranean horseshoe bat: Such a face! This sweet critter is found in warm, wooded areas, particularly those with plenty of caves and a water source. There, they hunt for moths and small insects. Like the split-nosed bat mentioned above, the distinctive fold of skin around the nose helps to direct and focus the sounds they make for echolocation. The species is relatively rare, and is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List.
Photo: Ivan Kuzmin /Shutterstock
Desert long-eared bat: Say Cheeeeeese!! Found in the desert areas from Morocco through Egypt and the Arabian peninsula, this bat is perfectly at home in arid and seemingly inhospitable regions. It is quite a predator, feeding on frightening prey including scorpions, like the highly venomous Palestine yellow scorpion. They seem to be immune to scorpion venom. While we might think that smile is cute, it's one all scorpions should tremble at.
Photo: Charlotte Roemer/wikipedia
Pygmy pipistrelle: This European species is one that anyone who likes hanging out near rivers and streams should appreciate. They dine along woodlands and wetlands, feasting on aquatic midges and other insects. They often take up residence in buildings for roosting, so part of proposed conservation measures to protect it include bat-friendly practices in the construction and maintenance of buildings.
Photo: Evgeniy Yakhontov/wikipedia
Greater false vampire bat: Found in South Asia and Southeast Asia in humid rainforests, this bat's adorable features mask what an exceptional predator it is. It can eat everything from large insects to lizards, frogs, rats, small birds and even other species of small bats. Amazingly, the greater false vampire bat can detect and catch prey like mice and frogs in total darkness without using echolocation.
Photo: Aditya Joshi/wikipedia
Lesser false vampire bats: Mini versions of the cuteness above. And instead of eating larger prey like lizards and mice, these smaller guys go for insects. Cuddling up in roosts of 3-30 individuals, these guys can be found napping in rock crevices and caves, foliage and the hollows of trees.
Photo: Stephen Davis / Flickr
Great fruit-eating bat: Really, can you not fall in love with these little striped faces? Found in South and Central America, this bat species is another tent-making bat. Though it is considered a species of "least concern" on the IUCN Red List, it is found in forests and is somewhat at risk due to habitat loss.
Eastern red bat: This proud mother bat has not one, not two, but three tiny babies cuddling up with her to keep warm and safe. Having twins is common for this species, and they're known to even have quadruplets. Four tiny fuzzy baby bats at once? Cuteness overload.
Photo: Josh Henderson/wikipedia
Kitti's hog-nosed bat: This species is also known as the bumblebee bat, and it's not hard to figure out why. It's teensy, at only 1-1.3 inches long, and weighing about as much as a dime. It is the world's smallest bat and arguably also the world's smallest mammal. It only leaves its roost for about 30 minutes at dusk and 20 minutes at dawn, so all of it's feeding must be done in these little windows of time. Unfortunately, it is listed as a vulnerable species due to human disturbance and habitat destruction.
Photo: Margarita Steinhardt
And to understand just how miniscule this bat is, here it is in Jeff Corwin's hands:
Photo: Video screenshot
Lesser short-nosed fruit bat: Found in South and Southeast Asia and Indonesia, this bat species loves dining on mangoes. Really any aromatic fruit, but mostly mangoes. And who couldn't adore a mango-loving bat with a sweet face like this! They also eat nectar and pollen and, like other fruit-eating bats, are important for plant pollination.
Spotted bat: Tiny bats with spots. Yes please! This species has three distinctive white spots on an otherwise black back -- basically they're like the dalmatians of the bat world. They also have the largest ears, relative to their body size, of any bat species in North America. DDT nearly took out this species, but its population seems to have come back since the pesticide was banned. It dines primarily on grasshoppers and moths.
Photo: Paul Cryan , U.S. Geological Survey/wikipedia
Hoary bat: Now that's an impressive fur coat! This species can be found throughout North and South America, and there is also a hoary bat species endemic to Hawaii. It gets its name from the frosted coloring on its coat, since "hoary" means "having gray or white hair". It is mostly a loner, roosting individually in trees, and it dines primarily on moths.
Photo: Daniel Neal/wikipedia
Spectacled flying foxes: The common name for this bat is fairly obvious as well. These guys live in forest and rainforest regions of Northeast Australia, and rely on rainforest fruits and flowers for their diet. This mother is hanging out with her baby. Juveniles nurse until they are over five months old. When they are weaned, they join other juveniles in "nursery trees" where they gain strength as fliers by flying increasing distances with the colony during evenings.
Southern little yellow-eared bat: This species lives in the Atlantic Forest region of southern Brazil and eastern Paraguay. Not much is known about this species yet, but we do know one thing: it's cute.
Sulawesi fruit bat: This sweet-faced flying fox is a lowland species of the Sulawesi subregion. It has a relative tolerance for human disturbance and can be found roosting in trees in villages as well as in bamboo stands. While they are often hunted for bushmeat, in some areas they are protected because it is believed this bat is a bearer of good fortune. Considering the benefits fruit-eating bats bring to an ecosystem, it seems like a wise belief.
Pale spear-nosed bat: This Central and South American bat species feeds mostly on nectar, pollen, and flowers but is omnivorous and will snag insects as well. In some areas, their diet may shift from plants to insects depending on the season. This species is exceptional in that it has an unusually complex set of calls, with up to 20 different calls -- the same as many non-human primates. It also has the ability to judge the shape of objects, not just the size and location, by using echolocation. All in all, it is an amazing, and adorable, species of bat.
Photo: José Gabriel Martínez Fonseca/Flickr
Gambian epauletted fruit bat: This joyful mom has a baby at her side. Found mainly in Africa, these bats can be found where there are fig, guava, mango and banana trees, and use sight and smell rather than echolocation to find food. They travel in groups flying in packs from roosting to feeding sites in the evenings. They will carry fruit away from a tree and dine elsewhere to avoid predators, which means they are important for seed dispersal. In fact, bats can carry over one ton of seeds away from a single wild fig tree over the course of several nights! Human disturbance, habitat destruction, and pesticides used on fruit crops are all a threat to the species.
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