Bats really stand out in the animal world. They are the only mammals that can fly, and they live much of their lives hanging upside down. Most species are only active at night, dusk and dawn, spending their days in dark caves. Many bats have developed adaptations that let them find their way (and their prey) in complete darkness. Bats are also well-known for sucking blood, though in actuality, there are only a few specific species that feed this way.

Photo courtesy Georgia Museum of Natural History
The Seminole bat is one of the many bat species native to the United States. Seminole bats live mostly in the woods, where they hunt flies, beetles and crickets, among other insects.

In cultures all over the world, these peculiar qualities have captured the imagination of storytellers and their audiences, who have attributed mysterious, supernatural qualities to the animals. Unfortunately, these tales have given bats a notorious, sinister reputation, while in actuality, most bat species are harmless. In this article, we'll sort out the facts from the myths and see how bats do the amazing things they do. We'll also look at the many ways in which bats help humans and find out what could happen if these animals aren't preserved.