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Wednesday, 31 October 2007 00:00

Spookables

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It’s Halloween and goblins, ghouls, witches and vampires are wreaking havoc — and that’s before they get all that sugar in ‘em. And what would Halloween be without bats? Not a single haunted house will be without these fiendish creatures, waiting to suck your blood or fly into your hair if you happen to be a woman of female persuasion. And sometimes bats are not really bats but vampires and witches in disguise.

I think Halloween would be a great time to test our bat IQ. You will need a number two pencil and maybe some talcum powder for those sweaty palms. If you need to go to the bathroom, go now because no one will be allowed to leave once the test starts. If you need more room just write on the back but remember penmanship, grammar, spelling and neatness will count too. Each question will consist of two statements. Your task — if you choose to accept it — will be to determine which statement is true.

1. (a) Bats navigate by flying into women’s hair. Because of their acute sense of smell, they can sniff the air molecules trapped in the hair strands and actually determine the four cardinal directions. If the woman is going in the direction the bat would like to go it may simply hitch a ride, unless, of course, the woman begins to shriek and flail her arms.

(b) Larger bats, like the flying foxes, have large eyes and are capable of seeing in almost total darkness. Smaller bats use echolocation to navigate. They emit sounds that travel out into the dark. If the sound waves strike something an echo is reflected and the bat can tell the distance, size and shape of the object from the echo.

2. (a) There are two kinds of bats — the ones that are actually vampires and the ones that are actually witches.

(b) Bats are separated into two large groups — megachiroptera and microchiroptera. Megachiroptera are large bats with long snouts, large eyes and relatively small ears known as fruit bats and/or flying foxes. They are found primarily in Australia, Africa and Asia and they feed on fruit and pollen. Microchiroptera are smaller bats with short snouts, small eyes and large ears. They are cosmopolitian in distribution and feed primarily on insects. There are more than 1,000 species of bats. The bumblebee bat is the smallest with a wingspan of about 6 inches. The Malayan flying fox can have a wingspan of 6 feet.

3. (a) There’s no such thing as a vampire bat — it’s just a Halloween myth.

(b) There are three species of vampire bats in the order microchiroptera that live in Central and South America. These bats drink the blood of other animals. Cattle, pigs and birds are their primary victims although they have been known to bite humans. Vampire bats use their sharp teeth to make small incisions in the skin of sleeping animals. Their saliva contains two chemicals. One numbs the skin where the bite is to keep the animal from waking. The other is an anti-coagulate that keeps the blood from clotting so the bat can lap it from the wound.

4. (a) Bats are horrid, scary, dirty, rabid blood-sucking critters that come out under the cover of darkness to terrorize humans.

(b) Bats are clean, intelligent, social mammals that nurture and suckle their young for a year. Bats may live 15 to 20 years. They consume tons of flying insects such as mosquitoes every year.

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