Bats come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are barely even perceptible as they dart here and there, using the cover of night to add stealth to their nocturnal activities. You may think that all bats are about the size of a small bird, but the real sizes of some of the world’s bats might surprise you.
In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at the types of bats that exist on the extreme ends of the size spectrum. We’ll start with the smallest bats on record, and then we’ll move on to the “Grandfather” of colossal bats—a truly magnificent creature that will take your breath away!
Also, we’ll be working to disprove some of the more common misconceptions about bats, namely, that they all carry rabies or that they suck blood from human victims. It’s our goal that, by the end of this article, you’ll know more about bats and might even be able to impress your friends with some of your newly discovered bat facts.
The Smallest Bat In The World
Throughout the world, people love fawning over cute animals. In the case of bats, the argument could be made that the smaller the bat, the cuter it is. If this is true, then when it comes to the Kitti’s Hog-Nosed Bat, we’ve got the cuteness market cornered.
This teensy-weensy bat measures a scant 1.1-1.3 inches in length, and it rarely grows to weigh more than a mere 2 grams. For comparison, two grams is exactly the weight of two US pennies. That’s small!
The Kitti’s Hog-Nosed Bat is also called the Bumblebee Bat, appropriately enough, and it’s technically considered a ‘vulnerable’ bat species that lives in Myanmar. Sadly, this bat is on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, which is a comprehensive tally of some of the most threatened animals on the planet.
Some biologists even consider this animal to be the smallest mammal ever, a title that is often contested due to varying definitions of what ‘small’ constitutes. The closest runner-up for the award for the smallest mammal is the Estruscan Shrew, something that makes us wonder which one would win in mortal combat.
What does the smallest bat eat?
If this bat is small, then it’s diet must be small, too. Interestingly, this tiny animal is only active for about half an hour throughout the day, and it spends this time snatching small insects out of the air in mid-flight. Impressive!
Where does the smallest bat live?
The Kitti’s Hog-Nosed Bat doesn’t live in a castle in Transylvania, and it doesn’t shapeshift into a vampire at night. The reality is much less captivating: this bat lives in limestone caves of Thailand and Myanmar in groups of 10 to 100 in size.
Can I keep a Kitti’s Hog-Nosed Bat as a pet?
No. No, you cannot. Bats make horrible pets.
Not only would this be considered sharply illegal, but trying to recreate a bat’s natural environment is something that even tenured batologists can’t do without a team effort. So, even though this bat is small, cute, and maybe even cuddly, it belongs in dark, dank caves where it can roost in peace and further its lineage undisturbed.
The ‘Average’ Bats
Our discussion of the various bat sizes found in nature wouldn’t be complete without mention of the ‘average’ bats that live throughout the world. Since you’re learning which bats are the smallest and largest, why not learn what the average bat size is?
Keep in mind that there are over 1,300 species of bats—an order of animals known as ‘Chiroptera’. While they’re all not nearly as small as the Kitti’s Hog-Nosed Bat, they are much smaller than most birds who frequent the same skies.
In fact, the most common bat in North America, the Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat (also called the Mexican Free-Tailed Bat), rarely ever grows longer than two inches in length, when measured from nose to tail. What’s more, this bat averages only .44 ounces in weight, and that’s fully grown!
Another incredibly common bat across North America is the Little Brown Bat, a bat species that ups the ante in size. Coming in at an impressive 3+ inches in length, this little guy is still considered small in comparison with the thousands of other flying animals that inhabit the skies. Perhaps now you better understand why bats prefer to hunt or forage at night, when they can fly with relative safety from airborne predators.
The Biggest Bat In The World
Now you know which bats are the smallest, and you know what the average size is of the most common bats throughout the US, we now arrive at the category of the biggest, baddest bat of them all.
Drum roll, please…
The biggest bat on planet earth is the Giant Golden-Crowned Flying Fox, which is native to the Philippines. This species of bat was discovered in 1831 and weighs in at an impressive three pounds—you could amass more than 800 Kitti’s Hog-Nosed Bats, and all of them together still wouldn’t equal the weight of a single, full-grown Giant Golden-Crowned Flying Fox.
What about wingspan? Do you think you’d see this massive flying mammal coming at you from farther away than a few dozen yards? Well, with a wingspan that can exceed 5.5 feet, yes, you’d probably be able to see one coming at you (that is, if it wasn’t pitch dark outside!).
Unfortunately, like the Kitti’s Hog-Nosed Bat, the Giant Golden-Crowned Flying Fox is considered an endangered species, and efforts are being made by biologists to increase it’s natural populations in the wild.
What does the world’s biggest bat eat?
You might think this beast of a bat requires massive amounts of fresh meat in order to maintain his burly physique. Would you believe that they’re actually frugivores? This means they have a diet that consists mostly of fruit.
Who knew that vegetarianism could result in such a rubenesque shape?
Where does the biggest bat live?
From study of the roosting behaviors and foraging habitats of the Giant Golden-Crowned Flying Fox, we know that this bat is a master of the forest. It prefers to live in sections of forest known as ‘Riparian Zones’, which often border the shores of rivers and streams.
Because of its preference for forests that are not inhabited by humans, the Giant Golden-Crowned Flying Fox has had to migrate to smaller and smaller regions as humans have continued to disperse throughout the area.
Does the world’s biggest bat carry rabies?
Probably not. At least, that’s what the data suggests. On the whole, most bats do not carry rabies. And, in fact, the estimates for the percent of wild bats that do carry rabies is turning out to be much lower than previously thought. A 2011 study from the University of Calgary suggests that fewer than 1% of all bats are likely to be actively rabid.
So, relax—you probably don’t have to worry about this massive, clawed behemoth swooping down from the twilight skies and infecting you with a potentially fatal disease.
Honor the Bat; Respect It’s Domain
We hope you’ve learned something during our journey to both ends of the bat size continuum. Remember that bats are mammals just like we are, and they deserve the same respect and protection that any other animal deserves.
While they may be often misunderstood and mischaracterized, they have a lot to teach us if we’re willing to learn.
In that effort, feel free to explore the other bat-related resources found on this page.