I’ve wanted to write a post about bats for a long time, but there are so many species of bat I had trouble picking one. In fact, bats are the second largest mammalian order, with around 1,240 known species, comprising almost 20% of all mammal species. So you can see why it was a daunting task to pick a single species to write about. Luckily I have my trusty Encyclopedia of Mammals, so I simply perused the ‘bats’ section until I found a worthy candidate.

Mexican long-nosed bats are not only found in Mexico, but also in the US, Honduras and Guatemala. They live in woodlands or desert scrub, roosting in caves or hollow trees during the day. They migrate to follow their food source, the agave plant. Agave nectar is the main source of food for these bats, who hover in front the plant’s flowers and stick their long noses and tongues into the flower to get the rich, sweet nectar.

A close up of the long-nosed bat, showing its funny-looking nose.
A close up of the long-nosed bat, showing its funny-looking nose. Photo credit: Rubén Galicia

Unfortunately for the bats, agave plants bloom only for a few nights before the flower dies, which means the bats have to keep moving to have a constant source of food. When they can’t get agave, the bats will also feed on flower and pollen of cacti, as well as on insects. Because of their mostly liquid diet, these bats have very little need of water, which is probably why they do so well in desert areas.

Mexican long-nosed bats are quite small, reaching only 9 cm in length and 30 g in weight. Their long nose is equipped with a triangular nose leaf, which is thought to aid the bats in smelling flowering agave plants. They have a very long tongue, which has enlarged papillae at the tip to help the bat lap up nectar.

Swooping in to get some nectar.
Swooping in to get some nectar. Source:  http://pixdaus.com/mexican-long-nosed-bat-leptonycteris-nivalis-bat-flower-natu/items/view/302980/

The bats mate in May, with young being born in the middle of the summer. A female will give birth to one baby, who piggy backs on mom for a few months until it is able to fly on its own. Mexican long-nosed bats roost in huge colonies, sometimes numbering up to 13,000 bats. Imagine walking into that cave!

Long-nosed bats have faced population declines in recent years, which is a big worry for the agave plant. The bats help pollinate the plants, so fewer bats means less agave, which is terrible news for tequila drinkers. On the bright side, conservation efforts have been ongoing since 1995, so hopefully these bats will be around for a long time to come.

Cover image source: http://pixdaus.com/mexican-long-nosed-bat-leptonycteris-nivalis-bat-flower-natu/items/view/302980/