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Disclaimer: If you are easily offended by sheer honesty, or you think me having my own opinions is "being negative", then this is not the place for you, and I suggest you leave and head elsewhere. I call a spade a spade, and I don't sugarcoat anything.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Chiroptophobia

This is an interesting idea I had this morning to celebrate the coming of Halloween. I thought I would talk about interesting phobias between now and the 31st. There are so many different kinds, some are common (like mine, I have a severe case of arachnophobia), some are rare, and some are just unusual. This one is actually quite common. Chiroptophobia is the fear of bats.


Many people fear things that move about at night. That's because we are not night creatures, so we do not understand nocturnal animals. Bats are no exception to this rule. Bats are one of the most beneficial, successful and misunderstood animals on the planet. Most people know more about outer space than they do about bats. And a lot of the popular knowledge we do know about bats is mostly fiction. For example, bats are not blind. It is proven they can actually see quite well. They do not have miracle vision though, so they evolved the wonderful ability to echolocate, which allows them to find small prey, like mosquitoes, in the dark.

Another common misconception is that all bats carry rabies. This is also mostly untrue. Only about 0.05% of the bat population has rabies. Many people have been bitten by bats and have suffered no ill effects. Another very popular myth is that bats will fly into your hair and get caught. According to Peter August, a professor of natural resources at Rhode Island University, this is totally a myth. There has never been a reliable reported case of a bat getting entangled in anyone's hair. If a bat flies close to you, it's most likely because your movements have stirred up insects, or insects that are attracted to carbon dioxide omitted by all warm-blooded animals. But I have had bats fly close to me before and I've never had any get tangled up in my long, flowing hair. Not even close!


Now, I admit I do not like vampire bats, but vampire bats are only of 3 species, and they live in Central and South America. 3 species out of more than 1000 does not necessarily constitute the fixed stereotypes most people have placed on the family of bats. Some bats, in my opinion, are very cute!! Check this handsome guy out:





This is a greater flying fox (Pteropus giganteus), from a family of bats I simply refer to as "pteropods". The common collective name is "flying foxes". It's not hard to see why they are called "flying foxes", the face is almost dog (or even deer) like. Definitely not what most of us see when we think of bats. These animals are gentle, and feed on fruit, and their large eyes provide them with vision that rivals our own. Even when caught wild, they have never been known to bite, and these bats will never get tangled in your hair.

One of the most endearing bats I've ever seen is this one:





This is the Dawn bat (Eonycteris spelaea), and it has probably one of the cutest faces in the animal kingdom. It's in the same family as the flying fox above, but these little guys are smaller and have semi-long tails.


Just for the record, here is a vampire bat. Notice the difference?



There are only 3 species of vampire bats, and they are in a seperate family of new world bats called the Desmodontidae. None of these species live in North America.

If you have a fear of bats, you are not alone. More than 20,000 people also suffer from Chiroptophobia. As time moves on though, and more people become educated about the ways of bats, it's going to seem pointless to carry on with this fear.
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