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Townsend's Big-eared Bat, Corynorhinus townsendii
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Chiroptera
Suborder: Microchiroptera
Dobson, 1875


The microbats constitute the suborder Microchiroptera within the order Chiroptera (bats). They are most often referred to by their scientific name. Other English names are "insectivorous bats", "echolocating bats", "small bats" or "true bats". All these names are somewhat inaccurate, because not all microbats feed on insects, and some of them are larger than small megabats.

The distinctions between microbats and megabats are:

  • Microbats use echolocation, whereas megabats do not typically (The Egyptian fruit bat Rousettus egyptiacus is an exception but does not use the larynx echolocation method of microbats, instead giving scientists the theory that it clicks using its nasal passages and back of its tongue).
  • Microbats lack the claw at the second finger of the forelimb. This finger appears thinner and almost bonded by tissue with the third finger for extra support during flight.
  • Megabats always lack a tail, whereas this trait only occurs in certain species of microbats.
  • The ears of microbats possess a tragus (thought to be crucial in echolocation) and are respectively larger than megabat ears, whereas megabat ears are comparatively small and lack a tragus.
  • Megabat eyes are quite large, whereas microbat eyes are comparatively smaller.

Most microbats feed on insects. Some of the larger species hunt birds, lizards, frogs, smaller bats or even fish. The 3 species of microbats that feed on the blood of large mammals or birds (vampire bats) exist in the Americas south of the United States. Microbats are 4 to 16 cm long.[1] Leaf-Nosed Microbat species are not all known to be fruit and nectar-eating. Three species of Leaf-Nosed Bats follow the bloom of columnar cacti in Northwest Mexico and Southwest United States northward in the spring and then the blooming agaves southward in the fall.[2] Yet other leaf-nosed bats, such as Vampyrum spectrum of South America, hunt a variety of prey such as lizards and birds. The horseshoe bats of Europe, on the other hand, have an incredibly intricate leaf nose for echolocation and feed primarily on insects. Finally, the California leaf-nosed bat of North America is yet another insectivore to have this trait, as its name indicates. All of this lets us know that the term "leaf-nose," despite common fallacy, applies to a great variety of microbats and does in no way dictate the variety of diet a species with this trait prefers. [3]


Main article: Animal echolocation

Microbats generate ultrasound via the larynx and emit the sound through the nose or the open mouth. Microbat About this sound calls  range in frequency from 14,000 to over 100,000 hertz, well beyond the range of the human ear (typical human hearing range is considered to be from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz). The emitted vocalizations form a broad beam of sound that is used to probe the environment as well as communicate with other bats. See the main article on animal echolocation for details.

Some moths have developed a protection against bats. They are able to hear the bat's ultrasounds and flee as soon as they notice these sounds, or stop beating their wings for a period of time to deprive the bat of the characteristic echo signature of moving wings which it may home in on. To counteract this, the bat may cease producing the ultrasound bursts as it nears its prey, and thus avoid detection.


The bats are (from top to bottom and left to right): the Greater mouse-eared bat, the Lesser horseshoe bat, the Brown long-eared bat, the Common pipistrelle, the Greater noctule bat, the Barbastelle. Romanian post miniature sheet, 2003.

This is the classification according to Simmons and Geisler (1998):

Superfamily Emballonuroidea

Superfamily Rhinopomatoidea

Superfamily Rhinolophoidea

Superfamily Vespertilionoidea

Superfamily Molossoidea

Superfamily Nataloidea

Superfamily Noctilionoidea


  1. ^ Whitaker, J.O. Jr, Dannelly, H.K. & Prentice, D.A. (2004) Chitinase in insectivorous bats. Journal of. Mammalogy, 85, 15–18.
  2. ^ A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert, Edited by Steven Phillips and Patricia Comus, University of California Press, Berkeley p. 464
  3. ^ Walker's Bats of the World, Ronald M. Nowak (1994)

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