Dale Smart

Surprise lessons show beauty of bats

December 31, 2009 // 0 Comments

“Is he trying to kill you?” was one question offered by a youngster during a presentation on bats held at Wild Birds Unlimited, 5426 Northland Drive, Grand Rapids. The question came while youngsters and adults were able to admire first-hand a number of bats at a talk on animal adaptation. Bats are more closely related to humans than rodents “bat man” Dale Smart shared with the audience. Smart came from the Organization for Bat Conservation to enlighten visitors on the beauty, usefulness and necessity of bats in our world. Putting minds at ease over the actions of his hand-held bat (it was looking for a mealworm treat, a “bat carrot”), Smart talked about animals’ ability to adapt as quickly as environments can change. Successful adapters can survive and even flourish in a changing world, while those who fail to adapt die. Bats have proven to be resourceful, and Michigan bats are a good example. Today, in the midst of winter, many of our bats have left town to hibernate through winter. Rather than heading south to caves, many have relocated north to man-made mining caves in the upper peninsula. Bats also make good use of old houses in place of standing dead trees, which humans are making less plentiful. Less successful and thus rarer in our state, loons have not found a way to adapt to less shoreline in Michigan lakes. Because of their legs, they cannot walk on land and require undeveloped waterfront to breed. On the other side of the equation, some creatures are too adaptable. The Emerald Ash Borer beetle is an example of a successfully adapted visitor to Michigan. Bats are more than adaptable, Smart shared. Like us, they have hands, wrists and elbows, and fly with a motion that is the equivalent of a human swimmer’s breaststroke. Vampire bats do not eat human blood, he assured, as human blood gives them gas and diarrhea. The anti-clotting quality of vampire bat saliva is actually a benefit for humans, as it is being used to create clot-busting drugs. “The vampire bat is saving human lives,” Smart stated. “If you were a bat,” Smart said to a small audience member, “you would have to eat 200 pieces of pizza a day.” He pointed […]