Author: Bruce Neville

  Phylum: Chordata

Bats are small to medium-sized mammals. All of the Species in North America are relatively small. The wings of bats are formed from skin stretched between the fingers of the hand to the sides of the body and the leg. This is different from the wings of birds, which are formed from feathers that attach to structures evolved from the fingers. A flight membrane also occurs from one leg including the tail to the opposite leg. The skeleton is also modified to provide strength and support for flight.

Geographic range:
Bats occur in most temperate and tropical areas, though they are absent from some remote oceanic islands.

Bats are found in most habitats that provide protection for roosting during the day.

Food Web:
Bats in North America may be insectivorous or nectar-feeding. Tropical Species may feed on fruits, and vampire bats, of course, feed on the blood of living animals. No vampire bat has been recorded in New Mexico. Insectivorous Species generally capture insects in flight during nocturnal feeding flights. Such Species have tiny eyes and detect their prey by echolocation. Some insectivorous Species glean insects from surfaces. Nectar-feeding bats have long tongues with brushy tips to assist in their feeding. They are capable of hovering at flowers and may be important pollinators. Nectar-feeding bats are also generally nocturnal, and bat-pollinated flowers may only produce their scent at night when the bats are flying.

Reproduction and Development:
Like all placental mammals, bats bear live young. Most Species bear only a single large young, which is born naked.

The bats are the only order of mammals in which true, powered flight has evolved.

Bats generally spend the day in various refuges, such as caves or the eaves of buildings, where they hang head downward. During cold weather, bats may become torpid, enter true hibernation, or migrate to warmer areas.

Ecosystem roles:
Bats are important predators of insects.

Cool Facts:


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia, Mammals
Order: Chiroptera, Bats, Murciélagos

Bats are divided into two major groups: the Macrochiroptera or fruit bats, and the Microchiroptera or “ordinary” bats. Only Species of Microchiroptera occur in the United States. Of 17 families within the order worldwide, the following families occur in New Mexico:

Phyllostomatidae: American Leaf-nosed Bats
Vespertilionidae: Vespertilionid Bats
Molossidae: Free-tailed Bats, Mastiff Bats

Cockrum, E. Lendell; and Yar Petryszyn. 1992. Mammals of the Southwestern United States and Northwestern Mexico. Tucson: Treasure Chest Publications, 192 p.

Findley, James S. 1987. The Natural History of New Mexican Mammals. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 164 p.

Findley, James S.; Arthur H. Harris; Don E. Wilson; and Clyde Jones. 1975. Mammals of New Mexico. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 360 p.

Nowak, Ronald M. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World, 5th Ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2 vols.

Related Terms: Phylum