|Lasiurus borealis (Müller)|
Eastern Red Bat
Don Linzey & Christy Brecht
Wytheville Community College
Wytheville, Virginia 24382
Last updated: 26 November, 2005
- Adult total length:
3 5/8 - 4 7/8 in. (92 - 122 mm)
1 1/2 - 2 1/2 in. (38 - 63 mm)
- Hind foot:
3/8 in. (8.5 - 10 mm)
1/5 - 3/5 oz. (6 - 14 g)
Bats are unique among mammals because their forelimbs are specialized for
true flight. Flight membranes, which are actually extensions of the skin
of the back and belly, connect the body with the wings, legs, and tail.
Unlike birds, bats use both legs and wings during flight. Other
modifications for flight include greatly elongated fingers to provide
support for the wing membrane, a keeled sternum for the attachment of the
enlarged flight muscles, and fusion of some vertebrae. The membrane extending
from the tail to the hind legs is known as the interfemoral membrane. The
eastern red bat is medium-sized and the sexes are contrastingly colored.
Males are usually a bright rusty-red with a slight frosted effect caused
by the white tips of the guard hairs. Females usually are dull buff-chestnut
with considerable white frosting. Both males and females have a
yellowish-white patch on the front of each shoulder. The dorsal surface
of the interfemoral membrane is thickly furred. The basal two-thirds of
the ears are also densely furred. The ears are short, broad, and rounded
and when laid forward they reach slightly more than halfway from the angle
of the mouth to the nostrils.
left lateral view of
skull and mandible
dorsal view of skull
ventral view of skull
The eastern red bat is found from northern Mexico and the eastern and central United
States to southern Canada. Its range extends westward to southwestern New Mexico,
eastern Colorado, western North Dakota, and southwestern Alberta.
Eastern red bats are solitary and normally roost in trees and shrubs. Roosting sites near
water seem to be preferred.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
The eastern red bat is a non-hibernating north to south migratory
bat. They have been recorded at elevations ranging from 1,530 feet
to 4,800 feet.
- Blount Co.:
Cades Cove (1,750 feet)
- Cocke Co.:
Near Cosby Ranger Station (1,600 feet).
- Sevier Co.:
Myhr Cave (1,530 feet); Sugarlands (1,600 feet);
Greenbrier (1,600 feet and 3,000 feet)
- Swain Co.:
Twentymile Creek; Fontana Dam; Kephart Prong;
Thomas Ridge (4,800 feet).
Eastern red bats usually mate in August and September, although
the park mammal collection contains two red bats in copulation
that were taken on April 5. Females store sperm in their reproductive
tracts during the winter and ovulate in early spring. Following
a gestation period of 80-90 days, 1-5 young are born in June. The
lasiurine bats, particularly the red bat, are the only bats known
that normally have 3 or 4 young per litter. At birth the young
weigh about 0.5 g each, and by 4 weeks of age they weigh nearly half
of the mother's weight. Between 3-6 weeks of age they can fly and
are ready to be weaned between 4-6 weeks of age.
- Terrestrial Ecology
The senses of sight and hearing are well developed in bats.
Since most bats become active near dusk and are active much of the
night, sight is of little importance in navigation and in the
capture of prey. Instead, they use echolocation, a system somewhat
similar to radar. They emit ultrasonic calls far above the range of
human hearing that are reflected from objects ahead of them. They
hear the echoes and are able to avoid obstacles and find food in total
darkness. Different species can be distinguished by differences in the
structure of their echolocation calls (Fenton and Bell, 1981).
During feeding maneuvers, the tail and wing membranes are used to
capture and restrain prey. Some insects are captured by the tail
membrane, which forms a pouch-like compartment. The bat must bend
its head forward in order to grasp the insect with its teeth and
take it into its mouth. Sometimes the bat may use its mouth to
capture an insect from its wing.
Eleven species of bats have been recorded in the park and all feed exclusively
on insects. During the colder months when flying insects are unavailable,
bats must either hibernate or migrate to warmer areas. Eight of our bats
are known to hibernate. Only three - the red bat, hoary bat, and the
silver-haired bat - are migratory. Bats have been seen flying over the
park during every month of the year. When flying during the winter, however,
they do not feed.
- Predators and Defense
No predators recorded from the park.
None recorded from the park.
- Community Ecology
Bats are capable of transmitting two diseases to humans - rabies
and histoplasmosis. Histoplasmosis is a disease caused by inhaling
dust that contains contaminated spores. Tuttle (1988)
stated: "Less than a half of 1 percent of bats contract rabies, a frequency no
higher than that seen in many other animals. Like others, they die
quickly, but unlike even dogs and cats, rabid bats seldom become
aggressive." Bats do not attack when they get rabies; they just lie in
one place. Although it is rare for humans to contract rabies from
infected bats, persons handling them should be aware of this possibility.
Links to Other Sites
- Special Protection Status
- In Park:
All plants and animals are protected within
Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Collection requires a permit which is usually
granted only for research or educational purposes.
- Map development
- Web page design & coding
- Denise Lim, University of Georgia, Athens
- John Pickering, University of Georgia, Athens
Barbour, R.W. and W. H. Davis. 1969.
Bats of America. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky.
Fenton, M.B. 1999a.
Red bat. Pages 105-106. In: D. E. Wilson, and S. Ruff (eds.).
The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Washington,
D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.
Fenton, M.B., and G.P. Bell. 1981.
Recognition of insectivorous bats by their
echolocation calls. Journal of Mammalogy 62 (2): 233-243.
Harvey, M.J., J.S. Altenbach, and T.L. Best. 1999.
Bats of the United States. Little Rock: Arkansas Game and
Linzey, D. W. 1995a.
Mammals of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, Inc., Blacksburg, Virginia.
Linzey, D. W. 1995b.
Mammals of Great Smoky Mountains National Park-1995 Update.
Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 111(1):1-81.
Linzey, D. W. 1998.
The Mammals of Virginia. Blacksburg, Virginia:
The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, Inc
Shump, K. A., Jr. and A. V. Shump. 1982.
Lasiurus borealis. Mammalian Species
No. 183: 1 - 6. American Society of Mammalogists.
Tuttle, M.D. 1988.
America's Neighborhood Bats. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Last modified: 8 April, 2002