Bats are found almost everywhere in the world. There are bats in the far north of Scandinavia, as well as in the deserts of the south-western USA. The only places on Earth with no bats are the Arctic, Antarctic and a few isolated Oceanic islands. The tropics have the biggest variety of bat species: Indonesia has 175 species of bats (about ten times the number of species found in the UK). Central and South America are home to almost one third of the world's bats species.
In some parts of the world, bats are revered. In China they are considered symbols of good fortune! But in many places, bats are feared and misunderstood and in many countries bat are not protected – despite falling bat numbers. Globally, bats face many pressures. This can be especially true on islands where they have to contend with cyclones and typhoons that can devastate their habitat. Even in the UK, bats might be affected by long bouts of cold, wet, windy weather – such weather means there are fewer insects flying for bats to feed on, and it can make hunting for insects more difficult. Read more about threats to bats in the UK. Habitat loss, hunting, changing climate and a deadly fungus are all having an impact on bat populations around the world.
Bats survive in some extreme environments and often have unique adaptions for hunting and roosting. The tube-lipped nectar bat of Ecuador has an extraordinarily long tongue – more than one and a half times the length of its body – so that it can reach the nectar at the bottom of long, tubular flowers. This bat stores its tongue in a special sleeve in its chest cavity (scaly anteaters do the same thing)! The eastern sucker-foot bat has ‘suction pads’ on its wrists and ankles, which allow it to roost head up in the very smooth and shiny central leaf of the Traveller’s tree in Madagascar. Horseshoe bats have wonderful ears and elaborate facial features specially adapted for their unique form of echolocation. Bats truly are amazing creatures!