There are more than 1,200 species of bats around the world, all of which fall into one of two big groups: megabats and microbats.
You can probably guess which ones are typically– though not always– larger! Megabats include all of the fruit and nectar bats in Asia, Africa, Australia, Middle East, and Oceania. Microbats include all of the insect-eating bats, as well as a large, diverse group of bat species in North and South America that eat insects, fruit, nectar, blood, fish, or frogs. Did you notice which diets the two groups have in common? Fruit and nectar!
The shape of an animal’s mouth and teeth can tell you quite a bit about what it eats. Even though the two distinct groups of bats eating fruit and nectar are very distantly related (they diverged at least 30 million years ago), they share characteristics that make them appear closely related at first glance. For example, nectar-feeding bats have long snouts and tongues in order to drink nectar from flowers.
Ken Lamberton from Arizona took this awesome photo of a Mexican Long-Tongued Bat (Choeronycteris mexicana) drinking from a hummingbird feeder and submitted it to the Great Nature Project. This photo shows the bat’s long tongue as well as the tip of it’s long nose just beyond it. These bats typically drink nectar from cactus flowers, but can be attracted with a feeder full of sugar water, just like daytime nectar specialists (hummingbirds).
From across the globe in West Africa, Jakob Fahr spotted this Western Woerman’s Fruit Bat (Megaloglossus azagnyi) under a palm frond in Ghana’s Aburi Botanical Gardens. You can see the bat’s elongated snout that allows it to drink nectar from narrow banana flowers.
Submit your photos of bats or any other living thing to the Great Nature Project. You can keep track of your observations and get help from other people to identify what you saw. Browse or search the photostream to see other amazing living things. Create an account to your share your photos of plants and animals.
Check out the map of observations recently submitted to the Great Nature Project. Are there any from your area? Share observations of plants or animals near your school.
Adaptations Activity (25 min) for Grades 9-12, Ages 14-18: Examining Convergent Evolution.
Carrie Seltzer manages National Geographic’s Great Nature Project. Before coming to NatGeo, she studied how animals disperse seeds in the Tanzanian rainforest. She has a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of Illinois at Chicago.