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Desert Diary
Mammals/Bat Cuisine


One of the most diverse groups of mammals in the world is the order Chiroptera. The word means "hand wing" and is very appropriate, because chiropterans are bats, and a bat's wings are made up mostly of immensely enlarged hands. Now, if you're ready for a vocabulary lesson, brace yourself, because various species of bats are insectivorous (feed on insects), nectivorous (forage on nectar and pollen), sanguivorous (imbibe blood), carnivorous (eat other vertebrates), or piscivorous (fish feeders). Indeed, the variety of ways of making a living probably is why bats are the second most diverse group of mammals, surpassed solely by rodents.

Our Chihuahuan Desert is blessed with a number of species. Yes, blessed, because bats do far more good than harm. Most of the bats in our desert are insectivorous, collectively scarfing down insects by the ton. However, get down into the warmer parts, and the sanguivorous vampire bats appear. And almost everywhere that agaves bloom profusely, expect to find nectivorous bats poking their noses into blooms during the flowering season.
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Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Little Brown Bat

Little Brown Bat, one of the many insectivorous bats of North America. Image by Don Pfritzer, courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.



Wilson, D. E., and S. Ruff. 1999. The Smithsonian book of North American Mammals. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 750 pp.