Wednesday, November 9, 2022

SearchResearch Challenge (11/9/22): Questions about bats--How many? Why do they hang upside down?

A small bat flittered by me... 

Greater mouse-eared bat (Myotis myotis) P/C C. Robillier, from Wikimedia.

... early one summer evening a few weeks ago, flashing in a hinky-jinky flight path across the blueing sky.  Bats have always been creatures of wonder and mystery so they're a natural fit for this week's SRS Challenge.  

I didn't get a decent image of the bat I saw (or more properly--barely perceived, it was so fast and dark).  I'm 99% sure it was a Little Brown Bat (Myotis, spp.), but, as usual, that got me to thinking about bats... 

This week's Challenge is another in our end of year series of Challenges that are not-too-hard-but-fun.  I've been curious about bats for a while and have always wondered a couple of things.  Can you find the answers to these curious questions?  

1. Why do bats hang upside down when they sleep?  (It seems like a terrible idea to hang by your feet, so what drove them to adopt this unique sleeping posture?)

Fruit bat in tree in typical roosting posture.  P/C

2. I'm not really a bat-ologist (that is, a chiropterologist), but I've seen many different kinds of bat in my travels and that makes me wonder: Just how many different kinds of bat species are there?  

3. We know many bats eat bugs, and some bats drink blood (vampire bats), and some eat fruit (fruit bats)... but what eats bats?  Do they have any natural predators?  (Let's exclude humans for the purposes of this discussion. As we know, humans will eat just about anything.)  

As usual, please let us know what you've discovered and HOW you found the answer to this week's Challenge.  

(And yes, I know, I'm a week after Halloween. Things take time.)  

Search on!  


  1. big bat
    the where
    hanging mental floss
    "Side note: In case you were wondering how bats poop and pee while upside down ... First off, pooping is no big deal. Bat poop looks like tiny grains of rice; if they are hanging, it just falls to the floor of the bat cave as guano. Pee, however ... well, they have that covered too. They just “hold it” until they are flying."
    courtesy of U.S. Department of the Interior
    also gov't provided… batty

  2. Started with Q3

    With [What has bats as food ]

    Answer: Wikipedia article as delicatessen

    And then with [what predators do bats have]

    From DOI.GOV:

    Owls, hawks and snakes and the biggest, disease,dying%20from%20white%2Dnose%20syndrome.


    With [why bats upside down]
    Bats roost, or perch, upside-down for several reasons... Interesting that they can't launch their body from the ground

    From :

    There Are More Than 1,200 Species of Bats.

    Not All Bats Hang Upside Down...Six species don't

    And then, [bat species not upside down]
    Results show that and other answers like telling us why bats and sloths don't get dizzy

    Here one that heads-up (called disc-winged bats)

    1. Was looking for bats in a Science profile on Twitter, and found this:

      Honduran white bat, La cueva de los murciélagos en México and Ussurian tube-nossed bats that make snow igloos

    2. This I did not know as well! Remarkable.

    3. Thanks also for showing your queries. Nice. And... I did not think to ask [bat species not upside down] .. Disc-winged bats! Who knew?

    4. Thanks Dr. Russell and Remmij

      Searched [ What colors are bats]

      Sustained fly.
      Bats are typically brown or black in color, but may have grey, red, white or orange fur.
      3 species feed on blood with other creatures

      More unknown colors

      With [ Unknown facts on bats]

      Heart beat when flying , micro or mega bats? And other ones

    5. Today, I saw a post by BBC Earth. They mention that their podcast (reflections), episode 7 this week, is about bats. And the part in the post mentioned how they change their sound depending distance.

      Sounds interesting if some of you want to listen too

    6. These are the studies alluded to in the NBC News article:

  3. I’ve been around a lot of bats in my time. I’m not sure what the phrase “kinds of bat species” means, but according to the US Department of the Interior, there are over 1400 bat species:

    According to Wikipedia:
    “The second largest order of mammals after rodents, bats comprise about 20% of all classified mammal species worldwide, with over 1,400 species. These were traditionally divided into two suborders: the largely fruit-eating megabats, and the echolocating microbats. But more recent evidence has supported dividing the order into Yinpterochiroptera and Yangochiroptera, with megabats as members of the former along with several species of microbats.”

    The order Chiroptera then consists of two sub-orders.

    1. That's what I meant. (And yes, I know the concept of "species" is complicated--I just meant the usual def of species.

  4. Addendum to previous post: Fact number 3 addresses predators of bats. There are probably more. Here is one:

    1. Ooops, forgot to show queries:

      [number of bat species]
      [Why do bats hang upside down?]
      [Why do bats sleep upside down?]
      That caused me to wonder: Why do we say “upside down” instead of the equivalent “downside up” and tried
      [Why do bats sleep downside up?] and got pretty much the same answers as from the original question.

      The DOI site had already revealed that owls, hawks, and snakes eat bats.

      To take that further [Who eats bats?]
      and a warning

      In case you have been wondering,

      Postscript: According to OED, “downside up” has been used as an adverb
      “1603 P. Holland tr. Plutarch Morals 1082 Nature hath brought foorth..Chrysippus, when she was minded to pervert and overturne the life of man and course of the world, turning all things up side downe, and contrariwise downe side up [Fr. mettre le dessus dessoubs, & au contraire le dessoubs dessus].”

      and adjective

      “1683 J. Dryden & N. Lee Duke of Guise v. i. 55 A. Since last we parted at the Barricadoes, The World's turn'd upside down. C. No, Faith, 'tis better, now 'tis downside up.”

      for centuries.

    2. Ahhh… You have uncovered why I am struggling with this. You searched “did tony bourdain eat bat soup”. Your results were all about “Anthony Bourdain”. (I used Ctrl F and did not find a “tony” on the first few results.) Does “it” consider every Tony to be an Anthony or does “it” know what you and I know – that that particular Anthony was often known as Tony?

      I did my own search [did “tony bourdain” eat bat soup] and the first results all had “Tony” in the text. For the first one the match apparently was “At Tony’s, Bourdain was joined by…” which isn’t exactly what was contained in the parentheses, but close.

  5. All this talk of bats made me curious about the origin of a phrase I used to hear “like a bat out of hell”.

    According to my friend the OED:

    “Slang phr. (to go) like a bat out of hell, (to go) very quickly.
    1921 J. Dos Passos Three Soldiers (1922) ii. ii. 67 We went like a bat out of hell along a good state road.”

    Though someone else claims to have found an antedating:

    First, from August 17, 1895 in the Evening Star (Washington DC, Page 15, Image 15), in an article titled "COWBOYS AT WORK / Hamlin Harland Gives His Impression of a Round-Up. / THE CRUELTY OF BRANDING / Some Stirring Encounters Between Man and Beast. / WITH THE COW BOSS":
    “The branding was soon over and then the camp began to move. The next round up lay over a formidable ridge, and as I rode behind the troupe with the boss, I saw a characteristic scene. Toiling up the terrible grade, one horse on the cook's wagon gave out, and four of the cowboys hitched their lariats to the pole and jerked the wagon up the gulch "like a bat out o' hell," as one man graphically put it. In this way do these men dominate all conditions.”

    The original newspaper page:

  6. having read RG & ML…
    6 up
    SERP - 'the bat was said to be sacred to Proserpina, the wife of Pluto'
    Mr. M. Loaf
    Miguel Macias
    behind the lyrics
    "And the last thing I see is my heart still beating
    Breaking out of my body and flying away
    Like a bat out of hell"

    fwiw, Austin is bat-centric also

  7. Bats in the news:

    1. Actually, my search skills are not that sophisticated. I knew about the bat colonies in Texas. A few years ago I had a botany/zoology tour of Killarney National Park and saw some bats there. (I guess Saint Patrick let them stay.) From those sources I picked up some key words like “white nose disease” and “bats as pollinators” and searched on those.

      Another interesting concept is [bats as indicator species]

      I was following my own yellow brick road and not trying to impress with any meticulous research.

    2. Since I have the attention of all you search masters, I have a question about searching.
      On hearing about “news aggregators”, my first stop was [site: news aggregator]. That led to Google News. Searching on ‘bats” gave such a wide variety of responses from bat meat in luggage to Hallowe’en to softball. The second hit was “YouTuber Eats Bat on Camera…”. Interesting.

      I then thought that I could also use a plain old Google search and click on the News icon and may be get the same results. Wrong. The first result was the above mentioned You Tuber and the bat. The next three results were that same story from different sources, with more later. Results from the two searches were totally different, at least in the early results.

      Here’s my question: Are these two completely distinct search strategies and, more importantly, when would I use one over the other?

      I also tried my subscriber news services and got totally different results both from the Google searches and each other, I would say more substantive, more the types of stories that would interest me.

  8. Replies
    1. Nice. I hadn't seen that Batman Easter egg before. How did THAT slip past me?!?

  9. may be mis-infornation… i should GooBing it…
    "Unlike most superheroes, Batman does not possess any superpowers, instead relying on his intellect, fighting skills, Google and wealth. The 1960s Batman television series used a camp aesthetic, which continued to be associated with the character for years after the show ended."
    microsleep, he's a horizontal mammal…
    just for grins

  10. I used a different search engine, Neeva, to pop in my search terms. If you look at this link ( you will find some of my thinking on this issue. I used the social annotation tool to comment. I think it fits admirably. You can make your annotations private, you can create private groups, and you can comment with text, images, videos. Pretty cool and useful.

    1. Thanks for this comment... I hadn't seen before. What an interesting commenting system! (Allows one to add a comment as an overlay on an existing web page.)

  11. one of the longer lists… lotsa images - indicates 1300+
    btw, if tracking Bruce Wayne, a known multi-positional microsleeper, do not look for rice grain-like scat
    look for cubes… similar to the wombat ("bat" coincidence, I think not)… Bruce seems fairly territorial.
    cube SERP
    cubic po
    list of lists
    example: math topics
    solvability is an unforeseen illusion

    fwiw — google connection for Neeva and some info…

  12. I have gone batty… and I'm not even in the belfry… there are many esoteric types…
    very rare grizzly bat… who knew

  13. Why do bats hang upside down
    Bats have peculiar bone structures. Their back legs and talons bend opposite to most mammals, with their ‘knees’ pointing outward and away from them. Because of this, they cannot perch on branches and other surfaces like birds, as they would be unable to balance for prolonged periods and definitely not while asleep. They can, however, use their talons to crawl to appropriate hanging spots. Concerning their muscle structures, their tendons and toes relax and lock when bats hang, keeping them attached to a branch or the like. Envision it as their tendons pulling their tiny toes closed to prevent them from falling in their sleep. The most beneficial aspect of this tremendous evolutionary feat is that, when upside down, they exert almost no energy, which allows them to enter a state of rest. Bats spend much of their time in this position, whether alert or asleep.
    Who eats bats
    Hawks and owls regularly kill and eat bats. Snakes and predatory mammals such as weasels and raccoons climb into bat roosts during the day and attack bats when they are sleeping. In some places, bats are even killed by little birds that fly into bat caves and peck them to death. The birds then drag the bats outside and eat them. Bats sometimes are even eaten by fish that grab them when they are skimming over bodies of water as they try to catch insects.
    How many types of bats are there?
    Depending on resource consulted there are either 1400 (from ) or 1200 ( from but both agree there two categories or suborders are based on the size and other unique characteristics of the bats----the Megachiroptera and the Microchiroptera

  14. off topic, but may be vampire related —
    a couple for mathlady… to while away a SU
    if you and/or Dan - or anyone - could explain NFTs? (in the crypto episode) – I am a bored sub-apeian… with no connection to Paris
    zero - infinity
    the SEC?
    Bored King
    the "real'?"
    The Real Apes
    a few
    bored bat ape

    1. I know what an NFT is, but I don't understand the crazy market for them.

  15. I’ve not had luck with posting, but here goes. Let me know if you don’t see this.

    I’m not sure anyone really understands infinity but some of us love it anyway. It makes a great meditation. One of my favorite cookbooks (misspelled on this site) offers recipes for a baked item “infinite ways” then presents about twenty variations.

    1. "Let me know if you don’t see this."
      bread? — there could be semi-infinite answers, all lacking the correct question…
      — having not seen "this", despite reading the invisible multiple time…
      rumination leads me to think I might have to move to CO & try the infinity fungi…

      Vegetal Matters
      Blue Apocalypse biscotti?
      ∞ – would have thought there would be more… unless more is less…

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. predators of bats: having been interested in wildlife all my life, I've come across quite a bit of info about specific predators of specific bats (bat hawk, bat falcon, Eurasian hobby (another falcon), Cuban boa, African python, Australian freshwater crocodile. But I have no idea where I'd look for a general survey of bat predation. The Encyclopedia of Life (see has very little on this.

  17. Thank you for the great reference. The Encyclopedia of Life will be one of my go-to references for all living things. The discussion of the functional differences between vision and echolocation as modes of perception was fascinating.

    [how did echolocation evolve]
    According to Scientific American

    “Some biologists have proposed that bats evolved echolocation to aid in hunting insects before they acquired flight. Ancient bat fossils dating to around 50 million years ago looked much like existing bats, down to the enlarged cochlea necessary for echolocation.”

    We have previously discussed echolocation in other species as an example of convergent evolution. According to various sources, manatees and sloths also sleep upside down.

  18. Hello everyone

    1. I started with obvious [ why do bats hang upside down ] most of the links on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) were in the "explain it to me like I'm five" category. Picked up the term roost and tried that along with why and bats. Didn't really see any sites that would get into how they evolved or why they evolved to roost upside down. On the SERP was a related search [do all bats hang ups down] so I went down that path. SERP had several of the same links that I had seen for my other searches. I ended up using the link to Mental Floss.
    Why Do Bats Hang Upside Down?
    I occasionally read Mental Floss for distraction, I can't stand the ads and generally avoid them when searching for answers.

    Saw that their article was originally posted to Quora and followed the link.
    Why Do Bats roost upside down?
    to another link
    Which bats hang upside down? Why do they sleep that way?
    There are some things that aren't sitting well with me on these articles, the biggest being no citation of other articles.
    The second article had some images but no references as to where those came from.
    Right clicked on an image to investigate using Google Lens.
    In that SERP sidebar was
    A new hypothesis on bat ancestry: seems odd…
    I had jumped to "explain it to me like I have a Phd in paleontology.

    2. Search [exact number of species of bats] The SERP had many references to over 1400 or other numbers, not an exact number. Page 2 of the SERP included a link to and I figured anything with the word research in it had to be good, right? ;-)
    The most recent answer states 1421, but is from 2020 and links to
    Bats of the World, a database.
    Simmons, N.B. and A.L. Cirranello. 2022B. Bat Species of the World: A taxonomic and geographic database. Accessed on 11/15/2022.
    The answer on Researchgate reminds us "To date, the recognized species are 1421. Of course, the species (and their number) are subject to continuous evolution in relation to new taxonomic studies." It's safe to assume the number of species being at 1421 may have changed.
    I wasn't able to figure out how to find or calculate a number of entries on
    3. Search [predators of bats] and we're back to explain to me like i'm five that I'm perfectly fine with after the Phd studying. This page seemed comprehensive from comparing a few other sites, but did not include fish as stated on another.
    Predators of Bats

  19. The joy of hanging downside up, from Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, (tr. Ann Charters): “He especially enjoyed hanging from the ceiling; he could breathe more freely, and a mild tingle ran through his body; and in the almost blissful oblivion in which Gregor found himself up there…”

    1. "a mild tingle ran through his body; and in the almost blissful oblivion in which Tony (sic) found himself up there…”"
      the joys of hanging, regardless of orientation - too soon?
      Kafka, Lynch, Cronenberg Bourdain, et alia
      'Not every caterpillar turns into a butterfly.'
      another interpretation
      Franz - in an undisclosed location
      infinite confusion - "The human condition, for Kafka, is well beyond tragic or depressed. It is “absurd.” He believed that the whole human race was the product of one of “God's bad days.” There is no “meaning” to make sense of our lives."
      "“'The Metamorphosis' — purported to be the fictional account of a man who turns into a large cockroach — is actually non-fiction,” according to a statement released by Mr. Kafka's editor, who spoke only on the condition that he be identified as E."
      Franz Kafka and Albert Camus
      …hmmm, does Google make things more or less absurd? (fwiw, damn, it's hard to type while suspended upside down… meh,
      not to mention the lack of fingers… double meh – where's the RAID?)

    2. I too had always pictured Gregor as a giant cockroach (There is even a Google doodle “honoring” Kafka as a cockroach). However, I am taking a literature class from someone well-known in the field and apparently there are issues arising from translation. The version we are reading (Ann Charters) begins “…he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous insect.” One of the characters calls him a “dung beetle”. It isn’t clear what kind of insect he was.

      I had also thought of the connection to Hitler but considered it too absurd. I was recently at Auschwitz and it could have been Kafka’s worst waking nightmare.

    3. Remmij - I posted some comments on Kafka to my class discussion board and included your pictures. I got a response: "Your links are precious, from pictures of the bug to the lengthy analysis of Nabokov."

  20. see part 2
    "A few hours later, the cleaning woman discovers Gregor's corpse and announces his death to the family."

  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. That is a lot of food for thought. I never realized what a crucial role translators play; the excerpts you sent differ linguistically from what is in my text. Our translator (Ann Charters) was dissatisfied with other translations so she made her own. She also uses American, rather than British, English. The “experts”, including Vladimir Nabakov, seem to agree that Gregor was not a cockroach, but the popular conception persists (guilty as charged).,209,0,0,1,0

      I am going to post some of these materials to our class discussion forum. Thank you.

    2. More on Google Translate: I also encountered the problem of needing to translate signage in an unfamiliar language using an alphabet unknown to me. So I started wondering how to use Google Translate with a different alphabet. It’s easy enough to cut and paste but I needed to be able to enter the words myself. The only other alphabet I know is Greek and I know a few words. So I chose Greek as my input language but had only the Latin alphabet keyboard. I entered English letters and got some matches. Since the Latin and Greek alphabets do not have a one-to-one relationship sometimes I got no results, sometimes strange ones, but sometimes accurate.

      (My initial problem had been to determine in which language the signage I wanted to translate was, but that’s another story.)

      Eventually I found a way to conjure up a keyboard with the non-Latin alphabet I needed, tediously type out the words as best I could, and use that as input to Google Translate. There was of course the problem that handwritten letters often do not match those on the keyboard but I was able to do well enough.

      Why was I spending my long-awaited post-pandemic vacation communing with Google Translate?

  22. This topic has reminded me of a recent SRS experience. I was in Prague a few months ago and one of my dinner companions, an engineer, was telling me that he had gotten an email with some instructions that he needed to follow, but the message was all in Czech and he couldn’t understand a word. I told him how I had had the same experience and how I copied the text, plopped it into Google Translate, and took it from there. Shortly, a woman at another table who had overheard our conversation came over and picked my brain about GT.