Bats are mammals and belong to the
order Chiroptera (meaning 'hand wing'). There are over 1000 bat species
worldwide which means that a quarter of all known mammal species are bats, and
they exist on every continent except Antarctica. They are the only mammals to
have developed true flight and have extended finger bones which make up the
framework of the wing. Bat fossils have been found in 55 million year old rocks.
Bats are split into two groups: the Megachiroptera (fruit bats and flying foxes)
and the Microchiroptera (microbats). All of Britain's bats belong to the
microchiroptera group. There is great diversity between bat species in terms of
size, habits and diets: the largest bat in the world, the kalong (Pteropus
vampyrus), can weigh up to 1kg and has a wingspan of 1.7m whilst the
smallest, Kitti's hog-nosed bat (also known as the bumblebee bat Craseonycteris
thonglongyai) weighs 2g and has a wingspan of 15cm.
There are 32 bat species in Europe with 16 known to breed in the UK.
Staffordshire has 10 resident bat species with unconfirmed reports of another 3.
All British species eat insects like midges,
mosquitoes, moths and beetles. Worldwide bats
eat a variety of other food including pollen,
nectar, fruit, fish, small mammals and even blood (although there are only 3 species of
vampire bat which all live in Central and South America).