Have you ever wondered whether bats go fishing?
Ever lain awake at night thinking about whether their little feet trail through the water, raking up fish so they can hang upside down and eat them? Whether they have some sort of sonar-related way to pick out fish too close to the surface?
Well, wonder no more.
This happy little scamp is the Mexican Fishing Bat, Myotis vivesi. It lives mainly on small islands on the Gulf of California, and emerges at night (as bats are wont to do) to go fishing.
A bat that can fish is weird enough that I would write about it; but how it does the fishing is stranger still.
These bats fly above bodies of water (including the sea) and use echolocation to accurately perceive the surface of the water, like some sort of 3D targeting system. When they detect the tell-tale ripples or disturbances of fish close to the surface, they then move to attack – and it’s the sort of attack that makes you realise why you never see The Joker in a boat.
The bat swoops low, homing in on where it predicts the fish to be, and drops its specialised, clawed feet into the water, trailing them along like Hell’s very own little fish trawler. The rake-like feet are elongated and flattened, so they skim through the water more easily, and the claws are massive and curved forward to catch in any prey like hooks.
The bat hits the fish at high speed, hooking it with its creepy little claws and dragging it clear of the water, before swinging it up into its creepy little mouth full of creepy little teeth.
Just so we’re clear, it makes a screaming demon face while doing it, too.
It then flies off to a convenient perch, where it hangs upside down and eats the entire fish, as seen in the first picture. Don’t think you’re safe just because you’re a crab or something, either. If it lives in the water, the Myotis will eat it. They’ve been recorded eating crustaceans, frogs, algae and small fish, as well as the airborne insects above the water, and presumably those of the researchers that were out in boats on the water’s surface. Unusually for land mammals, they can also concentrate their urine far above the mammalian norms, allowing them to survive in their arid environment by drinking seawater. Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink, except for the bats.
The echolocation means they’re accurate in total darkness, so the fish have no sensory ability that can pick them up before the strike. Out of the water and with no light to give them away, the bats are undetectable to their prey until it is far, far too late.
You’d probably have a better chance of picking one up if it came raking its claws down your street, though.
Yeah, you’d probably be fine.
(Image credit for Image 1 – chiroptera.fr (Chiroblog), Image 2 – abmexico.blogspot, Images 3 and 4 -Scott Trageser Photography, Image 5 – youtube still, “World’s Deadliest Fishing Bats”, Image 6 – web.ecologia.unam.mx