Chiroptera (Bats)


Bats are the second largest order of placental mammals after rodents, consisting of at least 1116 species in 18 families and 202 genera. They are unique among mammals as they are the only group to have evolved truly powered flight. Bats have a worldwide distribution with extremely diverse ecologies, life histories, morphologies and unique sensory adaptations.

Keywords: megabats; microbats; mammal; flight; phylogeny; echolocation; distribution; evolution

Figure 1.

A family of white fruit bats (Ectophylla alba) roosting in a Heliconia leaf tent roost. This species belongs to the family Phyllostomidae (leaf‐nosed bats) found exclusively in the Neotropics. Copyright Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International.

Figure 2.

Bat biodiversity hotspots based on the number of species in 500 km2 quadrats throughout the world (adapted from Findley, 1993). Colour gradients go from white (no species per 500 km2 quadrat) to red (120 species per 500 km2 quadrat) in increments of 20.

Figure 3.

Two conflicting hypotheses about the phylogenetic relationships among bat families based on (a) mainly morphological data (from Simmons and Geisler, 1998) and (b) purely molecular data (from Teeling et al., 2003). The membership of the traditional groupings Megabats, Microbats, Yinochiroptera and Yangochiroptera are shown on the right‐hand side of each phylogeny for reference.


Further Reading

Adams RA and Pedersen SC (2000) Ontogeny, Functional Ecology and the Evolution of Bats. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Altringham JD (1996) Bats, Biology and Behaviour. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bat Conservation International [].

Bat Conservation Trust [].

Crichton EG and Krutsch PH (2000) Reproductive Biology of Bats. San Diego: Academic Press.

Findley JS (1993) Bats. A Community Perspective. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Hill JE and Smith JD (1984) Bats, A Natural History. Austin: University of Texas Press.

IUCN Red List for Threatened and Extinct Species [].

Kunz TH and Fenton MB (2003) Bat Ecology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Kunz TH and Racey PA (1998) Bat Biology and Conservation. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Kunz TH (1982) Ecology of Bats. New York: Plenum Press.

Neuweiler G (2000) The Biology of Bats. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Simmons NB and Geisler JH (1998) Phylogenetic relationships of Icaronycteris, Archaeonycteris, Hassianycteris and Palaeochiropteryx to extant bat lineages, with comments on the evolution of echolocation and foraging strategies in Microchiroptera. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 235: 1–182.

Teeling EC, Madsen O, Murphy WJ et al. (2003) Nuclear gene sequences confirm an ancient link between New Zealand's short‐tailed bat and South American noctilionoid bats. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 28: 308–319.

Tree of Life [].

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Jones, Kate E(Jan 2006) Chiroptera (Bats). In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0004129]