Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Secret Lives of Bats

Merlin Tuttle, The Secret Lives of Bats: My Adventures with the World's Most Misunderstood Mammals (Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015).

There's something to the idea that people with unique names are inspired to do unique things. Certainly that's the case with Twyla Tharp, and judging from this book, so, too, with Merlin Tuttle. In his case, it's saving bats from decimation around the globe and advocating for greater appreciation of them.

In The Secret Lives of Bats, we see his dedication to conservation and ecology almost to the point of artistic madness, yet with very practical and demonstrable results. I was already pro-bat going into this, but within a few pages, Tuttle had convinced me of the critical importance of bats within the world ecosystem (along the lines of birds, bees and butterflies). Pollination is just one of their contributions, though a crucial one.

Tuttle comes across as highly driven and also a little "barmy" at times. "We had learned the first and biggest secret to successful bat photography: overcoming fear is paramount, and the best way to a bat's heart is through its stomach" -- on bribing bats with food so they'll allow their pictures to be taken (The Secret Lives of Bats, page 79). His caving adventures are downright wacky.

We learn a lot about Tuttle's often wild adventures, but even more about the wide variety of "flying foxes," including their use of echolocation to track down various types of potential food. 

In one of Tuttle's photographic adventures, he's exploring in Big Bend Park near the Texas-Mexican border. One of his party comes across a new sight: "At a glance, I could see it was a ghost-faced bat (Mormoops megalophylla). This bat is unmistakable. Like some dogs, it's so strange, it's endearing" (page 116).

Tuttle started Bat Conservation International in 1982. This book serves as a marvelous introduction to the ecology of bats. 

One way to think of bats: in general among flying critters, birds are the day shift and bats, along with owls and such, are the night shift. Can you dig? 

Today's Rune: Breakthrough.   


Charles Gramlich said...

A good kind of barmy

Erik Donald France said...

Yes, the good kind of barmy, for sure.

thejspotjodi said...

Erik-I dig the purpose of the bats but they still creep me out when I see 'em in the night sky!