Spooky Bats of the Public Domain

Let’s talk bats! Here’s the best of the public domain.

The Vampire Bat

This South and Central American bat has a rather unusual diet. Blood, blood and more blood! This dietary trait is called hematophagy, and is shared by mosquitoes, bed bugs and leeches. Young vampire bats consume their mother’s milk for the first three months of life, and then they switch over to 100% blood. Vampire bats are the only mammal that feeds exclusively on blood. The bats have adapted to have razor-sharp enamel-less fangs, and saliva that contains anticoagulants that inhibit blood clotting in order to prolong the bleeding of their victims. They have also retained the ability to walk, jump and run on land, but other bat species have lost this ability.

Common Vampire Bat
Common Vampire Bat
Desmodus rotundus (1822)

The Northern Ghost Bat & the Spectral Bat

A few more bats with Halloween appropriate names include the northern ghost bat, with a ghostlike whitish coloration, and the similarly spooky spectral bat (also known as the Great False Vampire Bat). The northern ghost bat is a South and Central American insectivore that typically feeds on moths. The spectral bat lives in South and Central America as well, and is the largest carnivorous bat in the world, with a one meter wingspan. It usually hunts birds, as well as rodents, insects and other bats. The spectral bat is considered “near threatened” and at risk of further population loss. In Trinidad, spectral bats are sometimes thought to be ghosts and are intentionally hunted.

Northern Ghost Bat and Spectral Bat
Northern Ghost Bat Diclidurus albus
Spectral Bat Vampyrum spectrum (1833)

3 Small Bats

We don’t have a lot of information on the 3 small bats above, but we love their aesthetic. The 18th century writer of A Natural History of Birds (1776) describes the top bat as originating from Jamaica, and the middle bat as a ‘short-eared English Bat’. More interestingly, he mentions that on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, bats were spotted with 7-8 foot wingspans. It’s not a complete exaggeration. The largest bat in the world is the golden-crowned flying fox (Acerodon jubatus) with a wingspan up to 5 feet 6 inches, and it does live in the Philippines.

3 Small Bats
3 Small Bats (1776)

Seba's Short Tailed Bat

Seba’s Short Tailed Bat is a common bat from South and Central America. It usually eats fruits, but also consumes nectar, pollen and insects. Due to the ease in breeding these bats in captivity, they are the most common bat found in zoos around the world. This image is illustrated by the exceptionally talented Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied. He is still remembered today in the collections of many American Midwest museums for his sympathetic depictions of Native Americans.

Seba’s Short-Tailed Bat
Seba’s Short Tailed Bat
Carollia perspicillata (1822)

We put together a collection of 16 vintage images of bats. These illustrations are sourced from dozens of books, with famous illustrators among the mix, including John Gould and Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied. There are 28 bats in total, all cleaned up of scratches, color corrected and with the backgrounds perfectly removed. It’s Fang-tastic! 🦇

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