by Luca Inamoto-Martine
Bats. When most people think of them they think of creepy and vicious little creatures that like to come out in the middle of darkness to attack humans. They don’t really have a good reputation. But now, Bats have been getting worse reputation, because it may be possible that bats have something to do with Covid-19. However, bats are amazing and unique animals that help to keep an ecosystem in balance. They are the only mammals capable of flying and have special abilities such as echolocation that they use for hunting. And yes, one species of bat called the Vampire Bat is the only mammal to have a diet of only blood.
For more than 2 years, we’ve all been living with Covid-19. And you probably know that it all started in China. But did you know many scientists think that Coronavirus came from bats? Now you may be thinking, does this mean that it is bats fault that humans got the Coronavirus? And that we should kill all bats to avoid another pandemic? No, that is not the answer.
First, I’ll tell you what scientists at nature.com think happened. Bats had Covid-19, though for a reason scientists don’t know. Then a different animal called the Pangolin may have gotten it from bats. Scientists think that a Pangolin might have gotten the virus by eating the bats’ feces. After that, humans get involved. Some people think Pangolin scales have special powers (just like how some people think Rhino horns have special powers). So they captured the Pangolins, and that’s when scientists think that humans got the virus. Then more and more humans got infected until there was a global pandemic!
As you can see, the reason that humans got Covid-19 is not the fault of bats or Pangolins but the fault of humans for doing what’s called wildlife consumption and wildlife trade. Of course, this is just a theory of how Covid-19 came to humans. This still hasn't been proven to be the actual case.
Furthermore, you probably know about vampires. They suck blood, only come out at night, and hate garlic. Also the famous vampire, Dracula, has the ability to turn into a bat. For some, there is an animal just as scary as the vampire, the Vampire Bat. Just like vampires, Vampire Bats suck blood. Vampire Bats live all the way from Argentina to Central Mexico, where they inhabit tropical and subtropical climates. Vampire Bats mainly drink the blood of cows, pigs, horses, and chickens. They very very rarely drink the blood of humans. But it’s happening more and more because the forests that Vampire Bats live in are being cut down.
One place Vampire Bats live is the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon rainforest is 2.124 million miles! Even though it’s that big, the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) estimates that, if the current rate of deforestation continues, in 2030, 27% of the Amazon may be without trees! You still might not get why deforestation can lead to more Vampire Bat attacks on humans. Well, because deforestation is forcing Vampire Bats to move into cities. This means that it’s getting more common for Vampire Bats to bite humans. (But it’s still very very rare!)
Bats are very cool and beneficial in many different ways. One reason they’re very cool is that they’re the only mammal that can fly! You may have heard of a Flying Squirrel or Flying Lemur, but they can’t fly, they can only glide. The only vertebrates that can truly fly are most birds and bats. As you know bats hunt in the dark, so then how do they see?
Have you ever heard the phrase “as blind as a bat”? Well I have no idea why people say that because bats are not blind. Although they don’t have especially good eyesight, they use their ears instead. To hunt, they use echolocation. What that means is, bats make a sound not audible to humans. Then that sound travels and hits something. After that, the sound bounces back to the bat. When bats get the sound back, they can visualize what’s around them in their heads! It’s amazing that bats in total darkness, just by making a sound, know what is around them.
Bats are also beneficial. First of all, Little Brown Bats, which are the most common bats in North America, eat mosquitoes. This helps limit the mosquito population so there aren’t too many mosquitoes. Some bats, just like bees, have a key role in pollination, too. Pollination happens when an animal like a bat goes to drink nectar from a flower and gets pollen on itself. Then, when it goes to drink nectar from another flower, it carries that pollen to that flower. That pollen helps create seeds, which means that the pollen helps create new flowers! Animals that pollinate are called pollinators.
To conclude, we’ve learned that it’s not the fault of bats that we got the Coronavirus. Second, we’ve learned about Vampire Bats. Finally, we’ve learned about the abilities and benefits of bats. One thing you can do to make a bat’s life easier is set up a bat box. If you live in the country or know someone who lives in the country, you can encourage them to order an easy-to-build bat box and hang it up near them. Then a homeless bat might have a place to live!