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Tropical American Bats

by Dr. Charles Handley, Jr.
Curator of Mammals, Division of Mammals, Department of Vertebrate Zoology
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. 20560

Narrative Index

To begin Dr. Handley's talk you can click here or read this brief overview, below, that provides links to the best places in the talk for specific topics.

A quarter of all the species of mammals living today, about 1000 species, belong to the order Chioptera, the bats. Today we'll look at characteristics that set bats apart from other mammals. The most obvious, is that all bats fly.

One of the problems we run into when studying bats is their common or vernacular names. To make sure that our discussions about bats mean the same thing to all participants, we follow certain protocols in the naming of bats as exemplified by several of the great bat namers of all time. This talk also addresses, species concept, subspecies, and geographic variation of bats found around the world.

Sharp eyes beat number crunching every day of the week. My concept of modern systematics involves combining old and new, morphological and molecular data. In order to obtain data we must closely examine many individual bats. Techniques such as bat safe tagging and tracking and the collaborations of many observers enhance our knowledge and understanding of the order Chioptera. This network of collaborators is rewarded by the excitement of discovery, both discovering new species and rediscovering lost species of bats. However, these collaborations can also lead to controversies over the naming sub orders of bats, controversies which can be resolved by further investigation.

Truly worldwide in distribution, bats are found everywhere except in polar regions and on the highest mountaintops. They even occur in deserts and on oceanic islands. Much current research is directed to studies of bat ecology and behavior, communities and guilds, and conservation applications in diverse biomes.

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