Happy International Bat Appreciation Day!
(TMU) — Today, April 17th, is celebrated as International Bat Appreciation Day—a day meant to remind us to show love to our flying pollinator friends who play a critical role in environments and ecosystems all over the world.
Bats are the common name for roughly 1,400 species that have been discovered, and these fabulous creatures make up about 20 percent of mammal species after rodents. An estimated 48 bat species live in the United States, and three states—Texas, Oklahoma, and Virginia—have their own official state bats. What makes bats unique among mammals is their ability to fly naturally and in a sustained manner.
In general, bats are a very misunderstood creature. No doubt, we can understand if a bat flying in the middle of the night gives some people the creeps—their depiction in pop culture associates them with spooky things like Dracula, the blood-sucking vampire.
April 17th is National #BatAppreciationDay. Bats play an important role in many ecosystems around the world. They are crucial pollinators for cactus species and many other tropical plants, they help control insect populations & also disperse seeds!
Why are bats important to you? pic.twitter.com/YLB69M22Ms
— EveryBat (@EveryBat) April 17, 2020
But as various scientific studies show, most bats eat a wide variety of insects, balancing the population of such creepy-crawlers and nuisance bugs like locusts, flies, scorpions, moths, centipedes, and mosquitos.
Other bat species are frugivores and enjoy such fruits as figs, mangoes, bananas, and dates, as well as seeds and the pollen of flowers. And yes, three types of vampire bats do exist in Central and South America, but humans have no reason to fear them.
Most bats are nocturnal creatures that come out at night, with many using their extreme sense of hearing and ability to see in the dark to get around. A large variety of bats use a trick called echolocation that relies on sonar to navigate, avoid obstacles, and find food—not unlike dolphins. However, some bats in Southeast Asia fly and hunt their meals during the daytime.
Today is International Bat appreciation day 🦇 pic.twitter.com/EdC4iaQemS
— Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park (@ZooWildlife) April 17, 2020
And while bees and butterflies often get the lion’s share of credit for their role as pollinators, bats are no less important to providing us with a crucial link in our food supply. As the Bat Conservation Trust explains, some 500 plant species rely on bats to pollinate their flowers. This includes various species of banana, mango, guava, durian, and agave—the succulent, pollen-rich plant that provides us with tequila. Many of these plants actually co-evolved with bats over the course of millennia.
Before reading the above information, some of you may have asked: why would we be celebrating these god-forsaken creatures when they were the source of the coronavirus that causes CoViD-19? Aren’t they the reason that we’re being quarantined indoors, jobless and bored, and now we’re supposed to celebrate them?
Well, as Deutsche Welle aptly put it: a bat didn’t “cause” the coronavirus pandemic. We did. More specifically, it was likely the fault of the rampant, illegal trafficking of wild animals.
Today is International Bat Appreciation Day! Despite all the bad press, bats are actually pretty cool and very important in nature. We have a lot to learn about bats, viruses and disease – read our blog to learn more:https://t.co/wCfEfAnNY9#virology #bats #batappreciationday pic.twitter.com/Gt7A67I5BY
— The Science Social (@TheSciSocial) April 17, 2020
While some bats have been shown to carry a number of infections deadly to humans—including Ebola, rabies, and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), among others—the vast majority of bats aren’t infected. There also isn’t any solid scientific proof that CoViD-19 took flight from bats yet, although there is plenty of conjecture and speculation. Some believe that pangolins may have acted as an intermediary for the novel coronavirus. Either way, bats that do carry coronaviruses pose zero threat to humans provided they are left undisturbed in the wild.
Sadly, a combination of misinformation, long-standing ignorance, and mass hysteria over the coronavirus led to villagers in Peru attacking our winged friends last month and killing hundreds of the creatures.
The problem led to Peru’s National Service of Wild Forests and Fauna (SERFOR) reminding locals that “bats are not our enemies,” and explaining that “70 percent of the [bat] species in the world feed off insects, many of which are harmful to agriculture and our health, like mosquitoes that spread dengue and other diseases.”
So with that in mind, let’s remember that bats are nothing to be scared of. Indeed, we hope that we’ve provided our readers with plenty of good reasons to not only appreciate bats, but to cherish and protect these good friends to our species. When it comes to bats, the facts make clear that to know them is to love them.
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Blue Whales Return to Spain’s Coast After Disappearing for 40 Years
Blue whales have been returning to the Atlantic coast of Spain after an absence of over 40 years in the region, when whaling industries drove the species to the brink of extinction.
Blue whales, which are the world’s largest mammals, had long disappeared from the region until the recent sightings.
The first was spotted off the coast of Galicia near Ons Island by marine biologist Bruno Díaz, who heads the Bottlenose Dolphin Research.
Another one of the majestic creatures was spotted the following year in 2018 and yet another in 2019. In 2020, two whales again made their return to the area.
It remains unclear as of yet as to why the creatures have returned to the area, but controls on local whaling industries are believed to play a role.
“I believe the moratorium on whaling has been a key factor,” Díaz remarked, according to the Guardian. “In the 1970s, just before the ban was introduced, an entire generation of blue whales disappeared. Now, more than 40 years later, we’re seeing the return of the descendants of the few that survived.”
Whaling had been a traditional industry in Galicia for hundreds of years before Spain finally acted to ban whaling in 1986, long after the blue whale’s presence in the region had faded away.
Some fear that the return of the massive sea mammals is a sign of global warming.
“I’m pessimistic because there’s a high possibility that climate change is having a major impact on the blue whale’s habitat,” said marine biologist Alfredo López in comments to La Voz de Galicia.
“Firstly, because they never venture south of the equator, and if global warming pushes this line north, their habitat will be reduced,” he continued “And secondly, if it means the food they normally eat is disappearing, then what we’re seeing is dramatic and not something to celebrate.”
Díaz said that while the data certainly supports this theory, it is too early to determine climate as the precise cause.
“It is true that the data we have points to this trend [climate change] but it is not enough yet,” he told Público news.
Another possibility is that the ancestral memory of the old creatures or even a longing for their home may offer an explanation, according to Díaz.
“In recent years it’s been discovered that the blue whale’s migration is driven by memory, not by environmental conditions,” he said. “This year there hasn’t been a notable increase in plankton, but here they are. Experiences are retained in the collective memory and drive the species to return.”
In recent years, researchers have found that migratory patterns are also driven by the cultural knowledge existing in many groups of species.
Researchers believe this type of folk memory, or cultural knowledge, exists in many species and is key to their survival.
A typical blue whale is 20-24 metres long and weighs 120 tonnes – equivalent to 16 elephants – but specimens of up to 30 metres and 170 tonnes have been found.