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The misunderstood bat is one of the most fascinating flying creatures. Bats have managed to occupy niches not filled by birds, and as a result, a fourth of all mammal species are bats.

Scientists classify bats in the order Chiroptera, meaning "hand wing". The fingers support the wing membrane, hence the name. Bats have five fingers and five toes, just as humans do. Only the thumb sticks out at the front of the wing. Bats are divided into two groups, or sub-orders, called microchiroptera and megachiroptera. Microchiroptera are the bats most people are familiar with. They are small, and most of them feed on nocturnal flying insects. Megachiroptera are large bats that only live in the tropics. The two groups may have evolved flight independently. If this is confirmed, we'll have to give them each a separate page.

Bats can't get around very well on the ground, but their other remarkable features compensate for this. Echolocation capabilities better than any other land animal allow the microchiroptera to tap the abundant food source of nocturnal insects. Megachiroptera, which eat fruit, have a keen sense of smell and good night vision. The smallest bat weighs only a gram, but the largest has almost a two-meter wingspan. Since bats evolved from gliding mammals, their hind limb is incorporated into the wing.

Read more about bats here. (outside link)