Inspired by the fruit bat stick skeleton he made last week at Crickley Hill, Jenson's new found love of bats has continued. You'll remember in the fruit bat skeleton blog how I commented briefly on the beginnings of a new LEGO model Jenson was making. Well, it's now complete and his interest in bats has since rocketed!
It has been super to hear Jenson reel off various fruit bat facts and means he has actually been paying attention to what I've been saying. He can tell me what fruits they like, (bananas, figs and mangos) and which countries you can find them in, (South America and Australia). He has remembered that they are not nocturnal, but active during the day as well and that they are very big.
I love the LEGO fruit bat he made. Not only is it very creative but, like all his LEGO models, it has tested his engineering skills to the max.
The best thing about it though is its accuracy - it looks identical to the diagram in the book. From the size of the eye socket to the direction the skull is turned.
To the fact he connected the toes facing outwards thereby enabling the bat to 'cling'. That alone shows great understanding how joints work together to enable an animal to move in a certain way.
It was Jenson's idea to overlay his LEGO bat model on the bat digram in the book and again highlights his natural understanding of anatomy. The shoulder blades and the distance between them are particularly accurate as are the femur and hip joints. The length of the back vertebrae creates a rib cavity that is almost identical to that in the book. The over sized eye socket is a perfect match to the diagram along with the neck vertebrae.
We've since moved on from fruit bats to vampire bats and Jenson loved watching this video!
We've learned that there are two different types of bat - plant eating bats and hunting bats. Both groups are mainly nocturnal. However it is the hunting bats that use echolocation to find their prey. That took us nicely onto the subject of what echolocation means. We learned that bats make high pitched sounds, called clicks, using their mouths or noses. The sounds hits an insect and bounces back to the bat's ears. The reflected sound gives the bat information about the location and size of the insect.
We also learned lots of interesting things about vampire bats. They weigh less than two ounces and have very sharp front teeth that allow them to puncture their prey for the entry. Unlike most other bats, the vampire bat can walk exceptionally well. This means they are able to move around on their prey consuming the blood that is coming from the wound.
We also talked a little about Evolution, which is believed to be the main contributor to the diet of the vampire bat. It is possible that the bats were once struggling to be able to find enough of their regular food source so changed their internal systems to make it possible for them to live on a liquid diet.
Vampire bats are very caring and social creatures. Should a mother fail to return to her young, another mother will care for the orphans so that they don't die. They also share food with each other. They don't fight for territory in a cave or other location suggesting they feel more secure in larger numbers. The vampire bat has several predators including eagles and hawks.
Vampire bats live in South and Central America. Colonies can easily exceed 1,000 members. It is common for members to remain in the colony where they were born for their entire life.
The liquid diet of the vampire bat is called Hematophagy. They use receptors in their nose to help them find food. They can live off blood because of the Draculin in the saliva. This substance ensures the blood from their prey doesn't end up clotting in the body of the bat. They don't suck their victims blood but lick it.
Jenson's enthusiasm for bats has continued all week. Today, (Friday) he was asking if bats could swim! I had no idea so did a quick Google search and was amazed to find that one UK resident bat species is known as the 'water' bat!
Its actual name is the daubenton bat. It is about the same size as a vampire bat - its body is a bit shorter and its wing span a bit wider. They usually take insects from close to the water and have even been seen taking prey directly from the water surface using their large feet! We now know there are 18 resident species of bat in the UK, 17 of which are known to be breeding here.