About one is every five mammal species, is a bat! So it is no wonder, that this strange species with a face only a mother can love, and incredible fishing skills, does exist. Doesn’t it look very much like a bull dog with it’s rather pronounced cheek folds?
The entire family of Noctilionidae(nocturnal ones in Latin), consists of two species called, rather unimaginatively, lesser and greater Bulldog bats. The lesser bat lives near water and eats insects that hover around it. The greater Bulldog Bat is more interesting in that it uses echolocation on water to look for fish. It can hunt up to 30 small fish every night. It is very well adapted to catching fish because it’s hind feet are very long and, literally like an eagle’s talon, can pick the fish cleanly out of the water.
Take a look!
The Greater Bulldog bat is one of the largest bats in the Americas, with a body length of about 10cm and weighing in at about 70 gms. Males are larger and have a bright orange color. The females are a dowdy gray. Both sexes have pale undersides; a good camouflage for living in trees which is their primary habitat. These bats have a long wingspan of about 1 meter and they can swim well too. The hind legs and feet a particularly large; the better for grasping the fish that they grasp from the surface of the water. The toes and the claws of this bat are flattened from side-to-side, reducing the drag as they are scrape the surface of the water.
They are found in a vast habitat range; from Central America to Argentina. These bats generally roost among trees during the day and are known to hang out in communities of hundreds of individuals. They emit a scent that even humans can smell from a fair distance. This helps in identifying the bats to each other. Very much like a calling card, really. They live in small family groups comprising of a male and several females. There are also bachelor groups for those unlucky males who haven’t found a family of their own yet. These bats usually have one young per litter per year and the little one is able to fly at around 30-45 days after being born.
As the evening approaches the bats become restless and start getting ready for a solid night of fishing. Their favorite places to hunt are mangrove swamps, small pools and areas of slow-moving waters like lakes. They usually fish but can take in all manner of other water dwelling creatures like crabs, scorpions and invertebrates too.
These bats are not in any danger in their range. Most of it is not heavily inhabited so that helps. The thought that should stay with us is that even among such a wonderful group of flying mammals, this bat stands out for it’s ability to fish and the adaptations that make it easy to do so.