The Order Chiroptera
Bats are the only flying mammals. The paper-thin elastic membranes extending from the sides of the body, legs and tail are extensions of the skin on the belly and back; sometimes the tail is very loosely connected with the membrane which stretches from heel to heel.
Bat image
Family Pteropodidae
Old World fruit bats and flying foxes: 130 species
Members of this family, found in the tropics and sub-tropics, have short, rudimentary tails and generally a claw on the second as well as the first finger. By day they hang in trees, emerging at night to forage for food.
Fruit bat image
Family Rhinopomatidae
Mouse-tailed bats: 4 species
The bats of the single genus in this family have a tail nearly as long as the head and body together.
Mouse-tailed bat image
Family Emballonuridae
Sheath-tailed bats: 50 species
Many of these rather small tropical bats have glandular wing-sacs secreting a strong-smelling red substance; these are more developed in the male and may serve to attract the female. The tip of the tail is free of skin, so that in flight the tail membrane can be lengthened by stretching out the hind legs.
No picture available
Family Noctilionidae
Bulldog bats: 2 species
Bats of this family have full swollen-looking lips, the upper lip being divided by a fold of skin. They have long, narrow wings.
Bull dog bat image
Family Nycteridae
Slit-faced bats: 10 species
These bats have long loose fur, large ears and a furrow extending from the nostrils to between the eyes, ending in a deep pit in the forehead. The tail has a T-shaped tip, a unique feature among mammals.
Slit-gaced bat image
Family Megadermatidae
False vampires: 5 species
Once thought to be blood-suckers, these bats eat insects and small vertebrates. They have a divided lobe in front of the ear and the leaf-life appendage known as a nose-leaf which the bats use in echolocation is long and erect in this family.
False vampire bat image
Family Rhinolophidae
Horseshoe bats: 50 species
These bats, found in the Old World as far eastwards as Australia, have a very complex nose-leaf extending over the upper lip, round the nostrils, and coming to a point above them.
Horseshoe bat image
Family Hipposideridae
Leaf-nosed bats: 100 species
This family is closely related to the horseshoe bats. Its members are found in Africa and southern Asia. Some species hibernate.
Leaf-nosed bat image
Family Phyllostomatidae
American leaf-nosed bats: about 100 species
The nose-leaf of these bats, which feed on insects, fruit and nectar, is sometimes absent. Some have a long nose and tongue with which they extract nectar from flowers.
No picture available
Family Desmodontidae
Vampires: 3 species
Members of this family have no nose-leaf but have instead a naked pad with U-shaped grooves at the tip. The teeth are specialised for cutting, and these are the true vampires which feed on fresh blood. They bite their prey where hair or feathers are scanty, usually without disturbing the sleeping victim.
Vampire bat image
Family Natalidae
Funnel-eared bats: about 15 species
These slim bats have large funnel-shaped ears.
No picture available
Family Furipteridae
Smoky bats: 2 species
A tropical South American family of small funnel-eared bats with truncated snouts ending in a disc or pad.
No picture available
Family Thyropteridae
Disc-winged bats: 2 species
These bats from central and northern South America have circular suction discs or cups on the wrists and ankles and claws on the thumbs.
Disc-winged bat image
Family Myzopodidae
There is one species - the Madagascar disc-winged bat Myzopoda aurita: similar to the true disc-winged bats, but with larger ears and the thumb-claw is shorter.
Madagascar disc-winged bat image
Family Vespertilionidae
Typical insect-eating bats: 275 species
The four previous families are probably specialised offshoots of the Vespertilionidae, a family of very small bats with tiny eyes, and generally without a nose-leaf. Some have glands in the snout and some have long ears. Examples: Noctule Nyctalus noctula; Long-eared bat Plecotus auritus; Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pipistrellus.
Insect-eating bat image
Family Mystacinidae
There is one species: New Zealand short-tailed bat Mystacina tuberculata today found only on Solomon Island, off Stewart Island. It has needle-sharp claws, those of the thumbs and feet bearing small subsidiary talons. The wings are rolled up under a leathery membrane when the bat is not flying; this allows the arms to be used in running.
New Zealand short-tailed bat image
Family Molossidae
Mastiff or free-tailed bats: 80 species
Most members of this family, found in most warm parts of the world, have tails which project beyond the edge of the tail membrane, narrow wings, velvety fur and no nose-leaf.

Free-tailed bat image

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