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Bats: An Illustrated Guide to All Species



Bats: An Illustrated Guide to All Species PDF

Author: Marianne Taylor

Publisher: Smithsonian Books

Genres:

Publish Date: April 9, 2019

ISBN-10: 1588346471

Pages: 400

File Type: PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

I’ve been passionate about bats ever since discovering thousands  of Gray Myotis in a cave near my Tennessee home in 1959. Almost  nothing was yet known about them. However, stained cave ceilings,  guano deposits, and stories told by old-timers confirmed they had  once been among the most abundant mammals of eastern North  America. Health officials were erroneously blaming them for a rabies  outbreak in foxes, and cave owners were pouring kerosene into roosts  and incinerating thousands of bats at a time. They were in such  precipitous decline that leading experts were predicting extinction.  Beginning as a high school student, I went on to band more than  40,000 of them, trace their migratory movements, and document their  value and urgent need for protection as a part of my eventual doctoral  thesis. As I explained the value and needs of bats, fear began to be  replaced with understanding and appreciation. Cave owners and explorers  began to protect key roosting caves. Today, as a direct result, there are  millions more Gray Myotis than when their extinction was predicted.  For many other species, we are dangerously late in protecting them.  Worldwide, countless bat species remain in alarming decline,  victims of needless fear, persecution, and neglect. In recent decades  we have finally begun to document their essential roles in maintaining
the health of whole ecosystems, keeping insect populations in check,  dispersing seeds, and pollinating flowers. Our real fears should be  about losing them. Yet, far too often, sensational headlines warn of  potential disease pandemics instead. Bats will leave us alone if we  leave them alone, but toxic pesticides won’t.

Most of the world’s bats have barely been studied beyond having  been described as species. When it comes to amazing research  discoveries, they are a long-neglected goldmine. However, it is incumbent upon us scientists to go beyond exploitation for  knowledge alone. Bats urgently need help, and we who study them  bear responsibility for their survival. We must strive to leave more  than we find.

Some bats have gone extinct, unnoticed until years later. As an  ecologist, I am most concerned about the decline of species that  traditionally have formed large aggregations, especially those with  narrow cave requirements. These are vulnerable to so-called “Passenger  Pigeon effects.” For example, when numbers fall below critical  thresholds, they may be unable to heat roosts sufficiently to rear young.  As you will learn in this book, their loss can threaten the health of  whole ecosystems and economies.

Too often, we focus mostly on saving the rarest species, often ones whose distribution is limited to a single small area. Though we  may love and want to save all bats, such species have the least impact  in ensuring the long-term health of our planet. Conservation status  listings can be dangerously misleading. As traditionally and here  applied, they often refer only to a species’ perceived risk of extinction.  However, long before extinction, a species can be reduced to biological  irrelevance. Keeping traditionally common species sufficiently  abundant to maintain ecosystem health should be a top priority. It has often been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and  never has this been truer than in the case of bats. Hopefully, the pages  that follow will help more people to recognize bats as the intelligent,  curious, comical, even essential animals I have personally known for the  past sixty years.
Merlin D. Tuttle

introduction

Flying almost blindly but unerringly  through the night in their threedimensional maze of sound, bats appear  to be supernatural creatures to us. Stepping  into their world means entering darkness— by night into the air, and by day into the  earth itself, the deep and foreboding caves
where they sleep away the daylight hours. Bats have long featured as sinister figures  and icons of horror in folklore, literature,  and cinema, and there is no denying  that they are, to most of us, deeply  mysterious. Yet above all, they are deeply  misunderstood. This book seeks to  illuminate the dark world of bats, and  reveal their true nature as exceptionally  diverse, fascinating, intelligent, and  endlessly enchanting animals


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