Fascinating mammals with wings

Bat | APAM Archive, A. Rivelli

Bats or Chiroptera (the term comes from Greek and means "winged hand") are the only mammals able to fly with active flight (i.e. they don't just glide, they take off and fly). They do this thanks to a particular evolution of the hand and arm, which have been transformed into a wing consisting of a thin membrane similar to the skin, the patagium.

The European species are all nocturnal and insectivorous, they hunt by emitting ultrasound from the mouth and pick up rebound waves through their ears or nose, depending on the species. Bats also use ultrasound emission at different frequencies, to move safely in total darkness.

Their ecological role sees them undisputed protagonists in controlling the populations of Lepidoptera and Diptera, sometimes harmful to forests and many human activities. During the day, bats usually rest in caves, in the crevices of old trees or abandoned buildings, a choice dictated by the different biology of the various species. In the Park territory 20 of the 30 species of bat present in Italy have been surveyed. Among these, the lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros) is the one that arouses the most interest, as this is the only known breeding place in Piedmont.