If you get squeamish just thinking about bats, you’re not alone. Like spiders and snakes, they’ve been put into a category of animals that go “bump” in the night.

But not only will they not purposely fly into your hair or sink their teeth into your neck to suck your blood, they’re actually a very important part of the ecosystem they live in. That’s why Vancouver Aquarium interpreter Lauren H. chose the Jamaican fruit bat (Artibeus jamaicensis) as July’s “Staff Pick of the Month.”

Vancouver Aquarium Interpreter Lauren Hartling

Lauren says, “There is so much more to them than the ‘Halloween’ stereotype,” which is why she likes to “make a point of sharing fun facts about them to [Aquarium] guests; especially guests who seem uncomfortable with them.”

Did you know that the bat is the only truly flying mammal in the world? And that it uses animal sonar (echolocation) to navigate while flying? The interesting information we could share about these animals would drive you absolutely, well… batty.

Jamaican fruit bats are named for the island they’re found on and the type of food they eat. But their range extends far beyond Jamaica – they’re also found in other parts of the Caribbean, and in Mexico and South America. Lauren says the bats “stuff their faces into melons and bananas” at the Aquarium, but eat figs, mangoes and avocados in their natural habitat.

Jamaican fruit bats are important rainforest regenerators. Sometimes while in mid-flight, they will accidentally drop some fruit, spreading the seeds that grow into new trees. They also “plant” seeds through their excrement, since food passes through their gut within 15-20 minutes. These bats also act as pollinators as they fly from tree to tree, eating the pollen and nectar of tropical flowers.

Lauren says, “they continue to amaze me whenever I watch them or learn more about them!” You can do the same by visiting the bats in the Aquarium’s Graham Amazon Gallery.

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