WTF Fun Fact 13161 – Bats Give Birth Upside Down

Female bats give birth upside down and catch the baby in their wings.

Interesting facts about bats

We know bats sleep upside down, but we weren’t aware they did much else that way. And you can chalk that up to our clear lack of knowledge about anything bat-related. But thanks to Montana’s Public Radio station (cited below) and their show “Field Notes,” which is produced by the Montana Natural History Center, we now know a lot more!

For example, did you know bats only breed when it’s rainy? Or share the responsibility for nursing baby bats among colony members? Or that the “colony” is actually called a “harem”?!

It turns out that female bats are only fertile during the wet seasons. That’s January or February in the Southern Hemisphere, or March or April in the Northern Hemisphere.

They divide themselves up into harems, territorial groups with one central male bat. However, that bat doesn’t father all the bat babies. Female bats in the harem may mate with other male “harem leaders.” Interestingly, the bat experts note that “it’s very unlikely that they will mate with a non-harem male.” So any lone bats out there are out of luck.

Apparently, the smaller the bat is, the more likely he is to be successful in reproducing. That’s because the males don’t simply go around and mate with harem members at will – they have to work for it. Males have to attract females with a display of flying and hovering prowess. Big bats can’t hover as well.

According to Field Notes, “Smaller males are more successful fathers because they can maneuver more nimbly in the air. Not only can they hover well and display themselves to females, they can maneuver well during actual mating, which happens – you guessed it – upside down.”

How do bats give birth upside down?

Ok, so that’s already more upside-down time than we had imagined.

But what about birth?

Females have only one baby per pregnancy, and those babies gestate for three months. When they are ready to give birth, the mother bat hangs upside down by her feet (occasionally grasping a ceiling or branch with her hands as well). This might sound like a lot of work, but when a bat’s feet grasp something, they are actually at rest (unlike ours). So it would take more energy to be in any other position.

Eventually, the baby bat emerges feet-first and they can even grasp their mother’s fur to pull themselves out. That’s helpful!

The mother then uses her wings to ensure the baby doesn’t fall from whatever she’s hanging from.

Not only do mothers nurse babies upside down, but they even take them on hunting trips when they’re not in baby bat daycare (or small groups of young called “creches”).

The mother bats nurse their young until two weeks before they’re weaned. At this point, they may let other mother bats nurse their babies.

And a final interesting fact – female bats are favored by mothers and more likely to survive.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Bat Moms Do A Lot Of Hanging About” — Montana Public Radio

WTF Fun Fact 12967 – Bats and Tequila

There’s a little-known but critical relationship between bats and tequila. In fact, without bats, we may not be able to create tequila at all!

How are bats and tequila connected?

If you’re a tequila fan, you probably know the crucial ingredient in the spirit is agave. This spiky plant is native to the desert regions of North and South America (but mostly Mexico). Agave nectar is also harvested to be used as a sweetener.

One of the many interesting things about the agave plant is that it has very few natural pollinators. (And you likely know that in order for plants to produce, they need to be pollinated by things like birds, bees, etc.)

The agave plant’s primary pollinator is bats. No bats, no agave. No agave, no tequila.

Is the tequila supply in danger?

To make matters even more complicated for agave plants, only a few species of bats are pollinators. These bats are being threatened by industrial farming and other threats to their natural habitats.

But while the bats and agave plants are increasingly threatened, our thirst for tequila has only gone up. According to NPR (cited below), the tequila industry has grown by 60% over the last decade. That means we need more agave plants than ever.

You might think that industrial farming would simply increase the amount of agave being grown, but it hasn’t worked out that way.

How do you solve a problem like agave?

NPR interviewed Micaela Jemison of Bat Conservation International, who said that the problem with commercial agave production is that agave stalks are harvested before they can reproduce. “That means no tasty pollen for hungry bats. And instead of plants that reproduce through bats spreading pollen from stem to stem, major tequila companies use cloned agave.”

If you only care about tequila, you might not think this is a big deal, but there are some major unintended consequences of handing a natural process over to a business.

“Growing genetically identical plants is easy and cheap for big companies, but cloned agave is vulnerable to fungus or disease that could wipe out entire crops. Bats can solve this problem by creating genetic diversity. Instead, their ecosystem has been disrupted. Fewer agave plants are allowed to flower and growers use powerful agrochemicals that can hurt the three kind of bats that feed on agave.”

The Mexican long-nosed bat and the lesser long-nosed bat are two of the major agave pollinators listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a third, the Mexican long-tongued bat, is a species of concern.

To help spread appreciation for the relationship between bats and tequila, the Tequila Interchange Project (which is made up of bartenders, scientists, industry consultants, and plain old tequila fans) is trying to promote Bat Friendly Tequila and Mezcal™. These approved brands give some of their proceeds to agave farmers who welcome the bats and help maintain their populations.

Bat-friendly tequila

The coalition notes that “Given that Tequila is a two billion USD a year industry, and that the economy of 40,000 families is linked to blue agaves (and to bats and other pollinators), it is in the best interest of all stakeholders, from producers to the government to the individual consumer and everyone in-between, to protect the future of tequila and mezcal agaves by adopting sustainable practices and protecting pollinators and genetic resources.”

According to the website, some of the bat-friendly brands include:
– Tequila 8
– Tequila Tapatio
– Tesoro de Don Felipe
– Siembra Valles Ancestral
– 7 Leguas
– Siembra Metl Cupreata
– TOCUZ Alto
– Don Mateo de la Sierra Cupreata
– Mezcal Vago Pechuga

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Bats And Tequila: A Once Boo-tiful Relationship Cursed By Growing Demands” — NPR

WTF Fun Fact – Bats Communicate Directly

WTF Fun Fact - Bats Communicate Directly

Bats are one of a few species besides humans that communicate directly to one another instead of just broadcasting to all. A lot of the time their communications are arguments about food, sleeping position, or another bat being too close. – WTF Fun Facts