Vesper bat

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Vesper bats
Temporal range: Early Eocene to Recent[1]
ComputerHotline - Chiroptera sp. (by) (4).jpg
Myotis myotis
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Chiroptera
Suborder: Vespertilioniformes
Superfamily: Vespertilionoidea
Gray, 1821
Family: Vespertilionidae
Gray, 1821

Vesper bats (family Vespertilionidae), also known as evening bats or common bats, are the largest and best-known family of bats. They belong to the suborder Microchiroptera (microbats). Over 300 species are distributed all over the world, on every continent except Antarctica. It owes its name to the Latin word vespertilio ("bat"), from vesper, meaning "evening".


Molecular data indicate Vespertilionidae diverged from Molossidae in the early Eocene period.[2] The family is thought to have originated somewhere in Laurasia, possibly North America.[3] A recently extinct species, Synemporion keana, is known from the Holocene of Hawaii.[4]


Almost all vesper bats are insectivores, exceptions being some Myotis and Pizonyx species that catch fish and the larger Nyctalus species that have been known on occasion to catch small passerine birds in flight. The dental formula of vesper bats varies between species:


They rely mainly on echolocation, but they lack the enlarged noses some microbats have to improve the ultrasound beam, and instead "shout" through their open mouths to project their ultrasound beams. In compensation, many species have relatively large ears.

As a group, vesper bats cover the full gamut of flight ability, with the relatively weak-flying Pipistrellus that have fluttery, almost insect-like flight to the long-winged and fast-flying genera such as Lasiurus and Nyctalus. The family size range is from 3 to 13 cm (1.2 to 5.1 in) in length, excluding the tail, which is itself quite long in most species. They are generally brown or grey in color, but some have brightly colored fur, with reds, oranges, and yellows all being known, and many having white patches or stripes.[5]

Most species roost in caves, although some make use of hollow trees, rocky crevices, animal burrows, or other forms of shelter. Colony sizes also vary greatly, with some roosting alone, and others in groups up to a million individuals. Species native to temperate latitudes typically hibernate, while a few of the tropical species aestivate.[5]


Four subfamilies are recognized:

Family Vespertilionidae

The above grouping of subfamilies is the classification according to Simmons and Geisler (1998). Other authorities raise three subfamilies more: Antrozoinae (which is here the separate family of pallid bats), Tomopeatinae (now regarded as a subfamily of the free-tailed bats), and Nyctophilinae (here included in Vespertilioninae).


  1. ^ Fenton, M. B. (2001). Bats. New York: Checkmark Books. p. 5. ISBN 0-8160-4358-2. 
  2. ^ Miller-Butterworth, C. M., Murphy, W. J., O'Brien, S. J., Jacobs, D. S., Springer, M. S. & Teeling, E. C. (2007). "A family matter: conclusive resolution of the taxonomic position of the long-fingered bats, Miniopterus". Molecular Biology and Evolution. 24 (7): 1553–1561. doi:10.1093/molbev/msm076. PMID 17449895. 
  3. ^ Teeling, E. C., Springer, M. S., Madsen, O., Bates, P., O'Brien, S. J. & Murphy, W. J. (2005). "A molecular phylogeny for bats illuminates biogeography and the fossil record". Science. 307 (5709): 580–584. doi:10.1126/science.1105113. PMID 15681385. 
  4. ^ Discovery of Extinct Bat Doubles Diversity of Native Hawaiian Land Mammals, at the American Museum of Natural History; published March 21, 2016; retrieved June 20, 2016
  5. ^ a b Macdonald, D., ed. (1984). The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. p. 807. ISBN 0-87196-871-1. 

Further reading

  • Corbet, GB, Hill JE. 1992. The mammals of the Indomalayan region: a systematic review. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Karim, C., A.A. Tuen and M.T. Abdullah. 2004. Mammals. Sarawak Museum Journal Special Issue No. 6. 80: 221–234.
  • Wilson DE, Reeder DM. 2005. Mammal species of the world. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC.
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