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Microbat

The microbats constitute the suborder Microchiroptera within the order Chiroptera (bats). Other english names are "insectivorous bats", "echolocating bats", "small bats" or "true bats". All these names are somewhat inaccurate, because not all microbats feed on insects, and some of them are larger than small megabats.

The distinctions between microbats and megabats are:

  • Microbats lack the claw at the second toe of the forelimb
  • The ears of microbats don't form a closed ring, but the edges are separated from each other at the base of the ear
  • Microbats lack the underfur; they have only guard hairs[?] or are naked

Most microbats feed on insects. Some of the larger species hunt birds, lizards, frogs or even fish. In South America blood-sucking microbats exist. Microbats are 4 to 16 cm long.

Echolocation

Bats are the most famous examples for echolocation among animals. Only the microbats (and not the megabats) are able to orientate this way.

The ultrasounds emerge in the larynx and are expelled through the nose or the open mouth. They have a frequency of 20,000 to 100,000 hertz and are inaudible for the human ear. Due to the high frequency the sounds are concentrated to a narrow beam. Some species have a funnel-shaped nose in order to improve the beam. The range of this beam is up to 5 m.

There are 800 species of microbats, each of them with a different behaviour pattern. Therefore there are great differences between the echolocation systems of the single species. The following is not valid for all microbats, but for most of them.

Every 150 milliseconds an ultrasound is expelled. That resembles roughly the period of a wing flap or a breath. The sound is reflected by surrounding objects and reaches the bat's ear. The bat is able to determine the distance of objects from the time between expelling and hearing the sound. The sounds may come in shorter intervals, when the bat is going to land or approaching to an obstacle.

Echolocation is not used only for avoiding collisions with objects, but also for hunting the prey. The prey is seized with the mouth, in the case of large prey sometimes with the wings.

Experiments with bats showed, that a bat is able to "hear" a wire as thin as 0.08 mm. The echolocation also enables the bat to analyse the surface of an object, so it won't confuse a prey with a plastic object.

Some moths have developed a protection against bats. They are able to hear the bat's ultrasounds and flee as soon as they notice these sounds.

Classification

This is the classification according to the DNA analyses by Simmons and Geisler (1998):

  1. Superfamily Emballonuroidea
    1. Family Emballonuridae (sac-winged bats[?] or sheath-tailed bats)
  2. Superfamily Rhinopomatoidea
    1. Family Rhinopomatidae (mouse-tailed bats[?])
    2. Family Craseonycteridae (bumblebee bats[?])
  3. Superfamily Rhinolophoidea
    1. Family Rhinolophidae (horseshoe bats[?])
    2. Family Nycteridae (hollow-faced bats[?] or slit-faced bats)
    3. Family Megadermatidae (false vampires[?])
  4. Superfamily Vespertilionoidea
    1. Family Vespertilionidae (evening bats or common bats)
  5. Superfamily Molossoidea
    1. Family Molossidae (free-tailed bats[?])
    2. Family Antrozoidae (pallid bats[?])
  6. Superfamily Nataloidea
    1. Family Natalidae (funnel-eared bats[?])
    2. Family Myzopodidae (sucker-footed bats[?])
    3. Family Thyropteridae (disk-winged bats[?])
    4. Family Furipteridae (smoky bats[?])
  7. Superfamily Noctilionoidea
    1. Family Noctilionidae (bulldog bats or fisherman bats)
    2. Family Mystacinidae (New Zealand short-tailed bats[?])
    3. Family Mormoopidae (ghost-faced bats[?] or moustached bats)
    4. Family Phyllostomidae (leaf-nosed bats[?])



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