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proboscis bat tent bats Vampire Bat
noctilio Lesser Long-nosed Bat

  • The pictures on this page direct you to different bats in and around Rio Dulce.
  • Since there are so many species of bats here in Guatemala it only seemed right to have a page specifically on a few of the more interesting ones to dispell some of the myths and possible fears you may have about them. Not only are they extremely helpful to us, their nocturnal behaviors gave them the reputation of being messengers to the Underworld by the ancient Mayans.

    Xibalba batgod

    Xibalba was a large place and a number of individual structures or locations within Xibalba are described or mentioned in the Popol Vuh. Chief among these was the council place of the Lords, the five or six houses that served as the first tests of Xibalba, and the Xibalban ballcourt. The city was home to at least six deadly houses filled with trials for visitors. The first was Dark House, a house that was completely dark inside. The fourth was the Bat House, filled with dangerous shrieking bats, and the fifth was Razor House, filled with blades and razors that moved about of their own accord. The purpose of these tests was to either kill or humiliate people placed into them if they could not outwit the tests.

    Bats may be the most misunderstood animals in the World. Here in Guatemala, bats make up half of the entire mammal species! Seventy percent of the bat species worldwide, feed almost exclusively on insects and are thus extremely beneficial. One bat can eat between 600 and 1,000 mosquitoes and other insect pests in just one hour.

    Bats in other parts of the world feed on a variety of items in addition to insects. Many species feed primarily on fruit, while several types feed on nectar and pollen. Fruit bats perform an extremely important function as seed dispersers. Nectar-eating bats are important pollinators. Many plant species depend almost entirely on bats for pollination. It is ridiculous that in the 20th century we are still wiping out animal species at an alarming rate. 25% of the worlds bats are threatened with extinction and at least 12 species have already become extinct.

    Bats are the only true flying mammals. Bats belong to the mammalian order Chiroptera, which means "hand-wing." The bones in a bat's wing are the same as those of the human arm and hand, but bat finger bones are greatly elongated and connected by a double membrane of skin to form the wing.

    Thirty percent of the world's bat species that are found in Latin America and the Caribbean region. Of the 45 species of bats found in the continental United States, six are listed as endangered. These species are the gray bat, Indiana bat, Ozark big-eared bat, Virginia big-eared bat, lesser long-nosed bat, and greater Mexican long-nosed bat. Many bats are migratory and along with some endemic bats have become threatened and endangered throughout the region. Many of these bats eat insects, including many agricultural and forest pests. Others pollinate plants and disperse seeds of important agricultural crops and native-forest plants.

    Myths and Misconceptions

    "All Bats Have Rabies."
    Less than ½ of 1% of bats carry the rabies virus. In addition, rabid bats are seldom aggressive. Fewer than 40 people in the United States are known to have contracted rabies from bats during the past 40 years.

    "Bats get tangled in people's hair."
    Although bats may occasionally fly very close to someone's face while catching insects, they do not get stuck in people's hair. That's because the bat's ability to echolocate is so acute that it can avoid obstacles no wider than a piece of thread.

    "Bats suck your blood."
    By far the most famous bats are the vampire bats. These amazing creatures are found in Mexico, Central America "which includes here" and South America. Vampire bats feed primarily on the blood of warm-blooded animals such as birds, horses and cattle but sometimes people when they are camping and don't use mosquito nets. They do not suck blood. The bats obtain blood by making a small cut in the skin of a sleeping animal with their razor-sharp teeth and then lapping up the blood as it flows from the wound. The bat's saliva contains an anesthetic with an anticoagulant that reduces the likelihood of the animal feeling the prick. Each bat requires only about two tablespoons of blood every day, so the loss of blood to a prey animal is small and rarely causes any harm.

    "Bats are blind."
    Although they can't see color, bats can see better than we do at night. And, many bats can also "see" in the dark by using echolocation. Although bats have relatively good eyesight, most depend on their superbly developed echolocation (or sonar) system to navigate and capture insects in the dark. Bats emit pulses of very high-frequency sound (inaudible to human ears) at a rate of a few to 200 per second.
    By listening to the echoes reflected back to them, they can discern objects in their path. Their echolocation ability is so acute they can avoid obstacles no wider than a piece of thread and capture tiny flying insects even in complete darkness.

    Bat Biology

    Bats, like humans, are mammals, having hair and giving birth to living young and feeding them on milk from mammary glands. More than 900 species of bats occur worldwide; they are most abundant in the tropics.

    Worldwide, bats vary in size from only slightly over two grams (0.07 ounce—about the weight of a dime) to more than 1.5 kilograms (more than 3 pounds). The large "flying foxes" of Africa, Asia, Australia, and many Pacific islands may have a wingspan up to two meters (6 feet). United States bats vary in size from less than three grams (0.11 ounce) to 70 grams (2.5 ounces). The largest United States bat, the greater mastiff bat occurring from central California south into Mexico, has a wingspan of approximately 55 centimeters (22 inches).

    Bats primarily are nocturnal, although many fly early in the evening, sometime before sunset. Occasionally, especially on warm winter days, they are observed flying during daylight hours.

    Reproduction and Longevity

    Most female bats produce only one offspring per year, although some species give birth to three or four babies at a time. The gestation period (pregnancy) lasts only a few weeks. U.S. baby bats are born in May or June. They develop rapidly, and most can learn to fly within two to five weeks after birth. Bats live relatively long lives for animals of their small size, some as long as 30 years.

    Feeding

    Insect-eating bats may either capture flying insects in their mouths or scoop them into their tail or wing membranes. They then reach down and take the insect into their mouth. This results in the erratic flight most people are familiar with when they observe bats flying around in the late evening or around lights at night. Bats drink by skimming close to the surface of a body of water and gulping an occasional mouthful.

    Hibernation and Migration

    Because insects are not available as food during winter, temperate-zone bats survive by either migrating to warmer regions where insects are available, or by hibernating.

    Several bat species hibernate in dense clusters on cave walls or ceilings. Clusters may consist of hundreds of bats per square foot. Most U.S. cave bats spend winter hibernating in caves (or mines) and move to trees or buildings during summer. A few species reside in caves year-round, although they usually use different caves in summer than winter. Most cave bats return year after year to the same caves.

    Tree bats seldom enter caves. They roost in trees during summer days and spend winter primarily in hollow trees. Several species make long migration flights. The millions of Brazilian (or Mexican) free-tailed bats that spend the summer in southwestern U.S. caves migrate up to 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) to and from their winter roosts in Mexico.

    Build a Bat House!

    If you would like to study bats or just want to reduce the bug population around your house, you can build a simple enclosure to provide them a safe place to sleep. Click here for some plans from the Organization for Bat Conservation. (see their link on the links page).


    Lesser Long-nosed Bats

    (Leptonycteris yerbabuenae)
    This migratory bat range begins in the northern limits from the Picacho Mountains in southern Arizona, southwest to the Agua Dulce Mountains and southeast to the Chiricahua Mountains. It can also be found in southwestern New Mexico in the Animas and Pelonicillo mountains. Further south, the batís ranges extends down to the drier parts of Mexico and further to Hunduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

    Throughout its range in both the United States and Mexico, the lesser long-nosed bat is considered to be an endangered species.


    Fishing Bulldog Bat

    (Noctillio leporinus)
    One of the largest bats in Central America is the Noctillo bat found here locally. They fly close to the water surface using echolocation to detect fish, by zig-zagging and chirping. This is called high search flight. When a bat detects a disturbance in the water that might be a fish, it swoops down on it and rakes the surface with its taloned feet to gaff the fish. If it catches it, the bat raises it to its mouth and chews it while still flying.


    Parnell's Mustached Bat

    (Pteronotus parnellii )
    The Parnell's Mustached Bat, Pteronotus parnellii is an insectivorous bat native to North, Central and South America. This bat species ranges from southern Sonora, Mexico south to Brazil. It's a fairly large bat with a forearm length of about 60 millimeters. Their ears are short and pointed and they don't have noseleafs, but the lips are wrinkled up and modified into a sort of funnel-shape. .

    These bats, live mainly in moist areas, although they can also be found in dry deciduous forests. They roost in caves and tunnels, and sometimes live together with other bat species. The females breed once a year.



    Proboscis Bat

    Proboscis Bat

    (Rhynchonycteris naso)

    If you have good eyes and know where to look, this is one of the few bats you will see in the daylight. They are common in the area and roost on the sides of trees, walls, or under the canvas of your boats cockpit.





    howler monkey

    Tent bats

    (Uroderma bilobatum)
    These vegetarians hide out during the day in their own tents. There are many species of them but all of their primary diets are fruit.


    vampire photo

    Vampires

    (Vampyrum spectrum)
    Once again thanks to Hollywood, this is one of the most feared and misunderstood of all bats. But don't be alarmed!