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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Creature Feature: White Tent-Making Bats.

Deep in the tropical rain forests of Central America dwells a special kind of bat. In a surprising feat of chiropteran architecture, they fashion tents out of the giant leaves of Heliconia plants...



...and look ADORABLE. If you thought bats were creepy little mice with wings before, these cotton balls will make you think otherwise. Mind, they are not white and fuzzy to appeal to us humans; they are white so that they are less visible inside their tents. (Green does not exist as a mammalian pigment, science.)


Tent-making is simple: the bats nibble along the edge of a plantain plant leaf's stem to make it fold over like a canvas.  The leaf is also perforated along the sides to give the bats a better foothold. A few snips here, a few folds there, add some punctures to make it easier to hang from, and presto. One tent, perfect for concealing flying cotton balls!

How could the Pokeymanz based off of this bat be LESS cute?

There are a grand total of 15 species of bats that make tents in Latin America, and a few in tropical India and Southeast Asia as well. The most popular is the Honduran White Bat, Ectophylla alba. It lives in Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and is likely the most photogenic tent bat around. It is harmless; at least some of its diet consists of fruit. Besides being fuzzy and adorable, these bats will not fly away unless the main stem of their tent is disturbed, thus making for a lot of great photo opportunities.

The Honduran White's tent usually contains one male and several females (a harem system, in other words). What? If you're gonna make a tent, may as well party in it. Bring on the marshmallow bats!

Party in the house!

(Tomorrow: A crab with fur?!)

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