In my little one’s class right now they’re studying bats.  I love that there was a poll taken on whether they’re creepy or cute and cute won.  Bats are mammals whose forelimbs form webbed wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight.  I find that fascinating.  After rodents, bats are the second largest order of mammals, representing about twenty percent of all classified mammals worldwide.  Bats mostly feed on insects, but some, such as flying foxes, eat fruit.  Bats are present throughout most of the world with the exception of extremely cold regions.  They perform vital ecological roles of pollinating flowers and dispersing fruit seeds.  Bat dung has been mined from caves and used as fertilizer.  It is a shame that in many cultures they are associated with darkness, death, witchcraft and malevolence.  Bats have incredible senses and their echolocation is a perpetual system where ultrasonic sounds are emitted specifically to produce echoes.  By comparing the outgoing pulse with the returning echoes, the brain and auditory nervous system can produce detailed images of the bat’s surroundings.  This allows them to detect, localize, and even classify their prey in complete darkness.  Incredibly, bat ears are so sensitive, they can detect the fluttering of moth wings and the movement of ground-dwelling prey like centipedes and earwigs.  I used to joke under my breath that my mother had the hearing of a bat.  To which she would reply from another room, “I heard that.”  The Nobel Prize winning American novelist Ernest Hemingway said, “I like to listen.  I have learned a great deal from listening carefully.  Most people never listen.”  I think that holds true today.  I know I have formed opinions and like expressing them.  However, I think I shall strive to listen and become more batty.