Bats and the Batman v Superman Teaser

This post originally appeared on Panels, which is now Book Riot Comics

Two new teasers came out for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Hooray? Honestly, the only new moment in either of them that did anything for me was when Perry White tells Clark that “Nobody cares about Clark Kent taking on the Batman.” To which I thought, that’s right, I really don’t care. Every bit of marketing that has come out for this movie has made me less and less interested in seeing it… except one. You can watch it here and then join me below the video for some more info:

One quick nitpick then onto the good stuff. Ben Affleck refers to bats as one of his favorite “species.” Bats are actually their own entire order of mammals, Chiroptera, which literally means “hand-wing” and are represented by over 1,200 different species all over the world making them the 2nd most diverse order of mammals after the rodents, i.e., 1 out of every 5 mammals is a bat. They are the only mammals capable of powered flight, all others just glide, and one of only two mammals groups that have evolved the ability to “see” with sound (the other being toothed whales) in a way that is so complex scientists are still working to fully understand it’s capabilities. The sounds they produce are two high-pitched for humans to hear, but you can buy or build a bat detector and listen to the bats in your own backyard or park. It’s funner that it sounds.

Most bats (~75%) are insectivores (they eat insects), and they eat A LOT of them, up to their own body weight every night. Why does that matter? More and more we are learning that our own lives are dependent on a healthy and functioning ecosystem. Bats serve an ecosystem function by eating insects that might otherwise try to eat crops being grown for human consumption. Without those bats, our crops are at greater risk, thus farmers will have to use more pesticides to keep their crops safe. Pesticides come with side affects to the ecosystem, including things like algal blooms at river mouths which can lead to anoxic waters that lead to massive marine die-offs. And that’s just one of the potential cascading problems not having enough bats around might cause. There’s so many interactions happening in our ecosystem that it is very difficult to predict how changing one thing might screw things up.

Plus bats are just really cool. I’m also a proponent of arguing for conservation simply as a worthwhile endeavor in its own right.

Bats, being diverse and distributed all over the word, face a number of threats to their survival. Like many plants and animals, habitat destruction, fragmentation, and pollution are problematic, but in the parts of the United States and Canada, there is another problem: white-nose syndrome. White-nose syndrome is caused by an invasive fungus from Europe and appears as a white fuzz around the bats muzzle. It has been spreading in North America since 2006 or 2007, starting in New York and radiating out from there.

wns-bat1

A big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) with white-nose syndrome.

The problem with white-nose syndrome is that bats needs to hibernate to survive cold winters, and often do so in large colonies. The fungus alters the bats behavior so that they are more active during the cold winter months, burning through their stored fat reserves that need to last until spring. Without those extra calories, the bats die. In some observed cave sites, this can lead to the death of 90-100% of the bats.

A quick PSA: If you’ve visited a cave in the past few years, you may have been told that you needed to walk across a special mat before entering. This mat is to ensure that the fungus is not inadvertently brought into the cave where it might infect the bats. Do not try to avoid the mat, people. Keep the bats cute and fungal-free!

So how do bat houses help? As I mentioned, many of the species affected live in large colonies and all the individuals hibernate together. If one bat has the fungus, this increases the odd of the entire colony getting it. If there are other locations to hibernate, this splits up the colony into smaller chunks, avoiding the risk of a total collapse. When Zack Snyder learned this, he decided to help out, which is really cool of him.

bat-house

And here’s another cool thing: they’re using recycled sets from the movie to help build the houses. I often wonder about the leftovers from big Hollywood productions. I assumed most of it was trashed, saved for sequels, or repurposed for other movies from that studio. In this instance, I’m really glad to see that mold broken, and for whatever I end up feeling towards the movie after seeing it, I am happy some real bats have a better chance at survival thanks to the filmmakers.

You can learn more about bat conservation and donate to the organization featured in the video here: savebats.org

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