KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Chiroptera (hand wing)
SUBORDER: Megachiroptera & Microchiroptera
FAMILY: 18 families
GENUS SPECIES: 180 genera, 900 species


DESCRIPTION: Varies according to species
SIZE: Largest wingspan - flying foxes 2 meters (78.74 in.)
Smallest wingspan - bumblebee bat 16 cm (6.24 in.)
WEIGHT: 14 g - 1.5 kg (0.5 oz. - 3.3 lb.)
DIET: Fruits, flowers, leaves, insects, frogs, fish, small mammals, reptiles, blood of vertebrates
GESTATION: 1.5-9 months depending on the species
SEXUAL MATURITY: Unknown for most species; those known range from 6 months to 2 years
LIFE SPAN: 4-30 years depending on the species
RANGE: South America, Africa, Southeast Asia (rainforests); Sahara, Middle East and Southwest United States (hot arid deserts). All continents except for Antarctica.
HABITAT: Rainforests, arid deserts
POPULATION: GLOBAL Varies according to species
STATUS: IUCN Some species endangered
CITES Some CITES I or II; some not listed.
USFWS In the United States, nearly 40% of our bat species are listed by USFWS as endangered species or are candidates for it.


1. Bats are the only flying mammals and comprise the second largest order of mammals in the world.
2. A bat's grasp is strong enough to hold its entire body weight while its body hangs upside down.
3. Along with whales, dolphins, and some shrew species many bats use echolocation (sonar dependent on pulse sounds and echoes) to identify and track prey.
4. Just one insectivorous bat can eat 600 or more mosquitoes in a single hour.


Fruit and nectar-eating bats are among the most important seed dispersers and pollinators of tropical rain forest trees and plants. Many economically important crops such as bananas, avocados, vanilla, and peaches are dependent upon bats for pollination. Bats are valuable subjects for scientific and medical studies. Insectivorous bats are essential in controlling mosquito populations. Bat guano is a rich source of saltpeter (potassium nitrate) which is used in the production of gun powder and explosives and is an excellent fertilizer.


Fenton, Brock. Bats. New York: Facts on File, 1992.

Gotch, A.F. Mammals - Their Latin Names Explained - A Guide to Animal Classification. Poole, United Kingdom: Blanford Press, 1979.

Hill, John E., and James D. Smith. Bats - A Natural History. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1984.

Parker, Sybil P. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals. Vol. II, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1990.

Tuttle, Merlin. "They Carry the Seeds that Make the Rain Forests Grow and the Deserts Bloom." Bat Conservation International, Austin, 1990.