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Obsolete systematic group

The taxon dealt with here is not part of the systematics presented in the German-language Wikipedia. More information can be found in the article text.

Townsend long-eared (Corynorhinus townsendii)

Townsend long-eared ( Corynorhinus townsendii )

Class : Mammals (mammalia)
Subclass : Higher mammals (Eutheria)
Superordinate : Laurasiatheria
without rank: Scrotifera
Order : Bats (chiroptera)
Paraphyletic taxon :
Subordination : Bats
Scientific name
Dobson , 1875
Included taxa

The bats (Microchiroptera) are a group of mammals which, together with the flying foxes (Megachiroptera), form the order of the bats (Chiroptera). This order includes the only mammals and, besides birds, the only vertebrates that can actively fly. There are around 1000 bat species worldwide; there are a total of 6399 species of mammals.

The name means " flutter mouse " ( ahd.  Fledarmūs , to ahd. Fledarōn "flutter").


Bats are distributed almost all over the world, they can be found on all continents of the world with the exception of Antarctica . They are also absent in other polar regions and on remote islands. On some islands (e.g. New Zealand ), however, they were the only mammals until the arrival of humans. The bat genus of the mouse- eared bat ( Myotis ) is the most widespread mammal genus of all without human influence, and the bulldog bats (Molossidae) and the smooth-nosed free-tails (Emballonuridae) are also very widespread .

In Europe about 40 species are common, nearly 30 in central Europe . A list can be found in the Systematics section .



Little noctule ( Nyctalus leisleri )

Bats are, on average, slightly smaller than fruit bats. The largest bat species is the Australian ghost bat ( Macroderma gigas ), which can reach a head-trunk length of 14 centimeters, a wingspan of 60 centimeters and a weight of 200 grams. The smallest bat is the pig- nosed bat ( Craseonycteris thonglongyai ), also known as the bumblebee bat , with a head-trunk length of three centimeters and a weight of two grams. Along with the Etruscan shrew, it is the smallest mammal of all.

The skeletal elements are usually very thin and delicate, which keeps the weight low.

Bats have a thick, often silky fur , which is usually gray to brown or blackish in color and has no hairline. But there are also white and patterned species, and in almost all species the ventral side is lighter than the back. Unlike other mammals, they do not have woolly hair, the fur hair is built up in a species-specific manner and has small scales, they can be used to identify the species.


Skeleton of a bat ( Eptesicus fuscus )

The most striking feature of the bats, like the fruit bats, is the flying membrane , which enables them to fly actively. The flight membrane consists of two layers of skin and extends from the wrists to the ankles ( plagiopatagium ). Further skins extend from the wrists to the shoulders ( Propatagium ), between the fingers ( Dactylopatagium ) and the legs. The lowest one is called uropatagium (tail fly skin ), it binds the tail - if available - and is often used to net the prey. In the flight skin there are muscle strands for stabilization and for flapping the wings as well as nerve fibers and blood vessels for supplying the flight skin.

The thumb is short - it is missing in the stump thumbs (Furipteridae) - and has a claw; the other four fingers are greatly elongated and stretch the skin. The upper and lower arm, the only from a bone, which are also extended spoke , consists (radius), while the ulna (ulna) is reduced in the central part. In contrast to most types of fruit bat, bats have no claw on the second finger; this only consists of a long phalanx. A thorn on the ankle, called a calcar , is used to stretch the tail skin; in some species this is supplemented by a stiff skin flap, the epiblema .

In contrast to most other mammals, the hind legs of the bats are turned backwards in the hip joint, they end in five clawed toes. These are used to hang up in the roost during the resting phase, whereby a special construction of the claw tendons enables passive holding without muscle tension - this means that dead animals also get stuck.

Head and senses

Bats according to Haeckel 1904

The heads of the different bat species differ considerably. While some are reminiscent of the faces of other animals - for example mice, hence the name of this group - others have developed special structures. Many species have nasal blades or other facial structures that are used to emit or amplify the ultrasound sounds. The ears, which are drastically enlarged in some species, are often provided with grooves or furrows, and they also have a tragus , an ear cover that serves to improve echolocation . Bats can see in black and white, and recent research has shown that some species can also see UV light , which is intensely reflected by some flowers, which they then fly towards to take in nectar. In addition, bats have a magnetic sense . On long-haul flights, they orientate themselves on the lines of the earth's magnetic field, similar to migratory birds and many other animal species. There is evidence that the magnetic sense is created by magnetite .

Bats normally have a set of 32 to 38 teeth, with the canine teeth being particularly pronounced. Most species use these to break up the chitin armor of their prey insects and the frugivores to hold onto the fruit. Contrary to popular belief, the sanguineous (blood-licking) species use the lower incisors to scratch the host. However, depending on the different diets, the structure of the teeth varies considerably, so that a total of over 50 different variants have developed from the original tooth formula 2133/3133 = 38. The common vampire ( Desmodus rotundus ) has particularly few teeth with a tooth formula of 1111/2121 = 20.

The eyes are usually very small, black and have lash-less eyelids. In the mouth area and in some species also in the nose area, the animals have vibrissae , i.e. sensitive sensory hair. The animals secrete an oily secretion through glands in the mouth area , which is used to care for the flight membranes and probably also contains odorous substances typical of the species. Other scent glands are located in other parts of the face, on the shoulders or in other parts of the body, depending on the type.

Gender differences

Bats have no noticeable sex differences. The adult females are usually slightly larger than the males, but this can only be determined by precise measurements. The penis of the male can only be recognized when the genital region is closely examined . This is stabilized by a small penis bone (baculum). As in humans, the penis is freely hanging (penis pendulum). This is quite unusual in the animal kingdom. In some species, the testicles and epididymis also stand out clearly during the mating season .

In lactating females you can also see the well-developed mammary glands that are located near the armpits. Most species have only two teats , but some species have four. In some families, there are also paired adhesive teats without milk delivery in the groin area , to which the young animals can cling.

Way of life

The perfect adaptation of the bats to the air as a habitat also shapes their way of life.


Most bat species feed on insects ( arthropods ), some of which they prey on in flight. In the tropics and subtropics there are many vegetarian species that eat fruit or drink nectar . These species play an important role for the plants whose flowers they pollinate ( chiropterophilia ) and whose seeds they spread ( chiropterochory ).

Larger species of the genera Megadermatidae , Nycteridae and Phyllostomidae also eat smaller mammals such as rodents and other bats, smaller birds, frogs, mice and fish. The largest species like Vampyrum spectrum eat birds up to the size of pigeons. Among other things, the sounds emitted by the prey as well as their smell serve for identification. The three species of vampire bats (Desmodontinae) feed on the blood of other animals.


The main mode of locomotion for bats is flying, which they are able to do through possession of the flight skins and various other adaptations. In the case of narrow-winged species, it is mostly fast fliers that live primarily in open terrain, while broad-winged species are slow fliers in habitats rich in structures; some bats master the shaking flight to keep an eye out for prey, such as the brown long-eared bats . During flight, the wings are flapped in a rotational movement, with the powerful downstroke in front of the head and the wings then being pulled up again in the back of the body. The tail membrane serves as a maneuvering aid and for braking.

The anatomical and physiological adaptations to this locomotion are diverse. The bats have a very voluminous chest with a sternum which, in convergence to that of the birds, has a keel as an extended attachment point for the flight muscles , and the spine is strongly bent in the chest area. During the flight, the breathing and heartbeat rates are greatly increased in order to meet the oxygen demand. The heart is also greatly enlarged and has about three times the volume of that of other mammals of the same size, and the number of red blood cells (erythrocytes) and the proportion of hemoglobin are greatly increased, so that about twice as much oxygen can be bound in the blood as in comparable animals Animals. Temperature-dependent expanded blood vessels in the flight skins, in which the blood is cooled by the air flowing around, are used for cooling.

In addition to flying, bats can also move around on the ground. Some species - such as the vampire bats or the New Zealand bats - are very skillful and surprisingly fast, while other species are clumsy and clumsy on the ground. Some species can also use their flight membranes for swimming and even take off to fly from the surface of the water.


Bats are usually nocturnal animals. To sleep, they retreat into caves, crevices, tree hollows or man-made shelters (attics, ruins, mines and others). In addition to species that live together in large groups, there are also those that live as solitary animals. They hibernate in the cooler regions of their range, and sometimes they move to warmer regions during the winter months.

All European bats have an annual cycle that is determined by the climate. Therefore, they need quarters that offer them protection from bad weather and from enemies. Summer and winter quarters can be distinguished.

A long-eared bat sets up winter quarters in a crack in the wall. The long ears are placed under the skin. Only the tragus remains to be seen.

In late summer, around the end of August, most European bat species look for suitable winter quarters that offer them sufficient protection for the cold months. In Europe, bats hibernate and therefore depend on shelter options during winter, where they can find uniform weather conditions and at the same time are not easily accessible to their enemies. Perfect winter quarters provide for them as cave animals cave systems represent, but also galleries and Fortress plants are gladly accepted. The largest known winter quarters is the 50 meters underground bunker system of the Ostwall from the Second World War in western Poland in Nietoperek near Międzyrzecz . Up to 30,000 bats of twelve different species spend the winter here every year. Other important quarters are the Kalkberg Cave in Bad Segeberg and the Spandau Citadel , a fortress in Berlin. However, roosts that only house a relatively small number of animals are more common.

Hanging bats

For the hibernation, the bats store special fat stores, the sole purpose of which is to provide the necessary energy during waking up, with which the normal body temperature can be reached again. During hibernation, the body temperature drops to a few tenths of a degree above the ambient temperature, but not lower than the temperature at which the blood is no longer able to transport oxygen.

Depending on the weather conditions, the bats in Central Europe go to their winter quarters from the second half of October to the beginning of November in order to begin hibernation.


Newborn pipefish bat

Bats have a remarkably low rate of reproduction. Most species give birth to a single young only once a year. This is compensated by a high life expectancy for mammals of their size; some species can, under favorable circumstances, reach an age of 20 to 30 years. Another characteristic of these animals is the delayed fertilization: the semen of the males can be stored in the reproductive tract of the females for several months, only when the weather is favorable the fetus begins to grow in the uterus .

In Europe, mating often takes place in the winter quarters. The males in heat seek out the females among the animals, which are mostly hanging in groups, clasp them with their wings and bite them in the neck. With this treatment, the female wakes up and, as soon as it is awakened, is mated by the male. The males are fully active when mating, while the females are usually still in the waking up phase. There is no advertising for the lethargic females. After the sexual act, both animals look for a place to sleep again. During hibernation, a female can be mated several times by different males. The egg cell is not fertilized after mating, but only after the end of hibernation. This prevents the female from losing too much energy during pregnancy and the young animals from being born in the cold season.

After the end of hibernation, around the end of March, the bats migrate to their summer quarters. The males usually look for day quarters that serve as a starting point for the hunt. The females come together in nurseries in which the young are born and raised together. The gestation period of the Central European species depends on the food supply. If there is little to eat for the pregnant female, it “regulates” the circulation and metabolism. The gestation period can vary between 40 and 70 days. These nurseries usually contain 20 to 50 dams that come together again every year. They leave the young animals in their quarters, where they form real bat clusters together with other abandoned young animals. After the flight, each mother recognizes her young and places it on her teats to suckle. From the end of August, the boys will be left by their mothers and will find their own way into the winter quarters.

Social behavior

Great Mouse-eared Colony

Bats are highly social animals that live together in groups for most of the year. In their roosts, they usually seek close physical contact with other animals, which causes bat pods to form ( sleeping bandages ). This has the advantage that the individual animals need and use little energy to warm up their bodies. There is also a mix of different species both in the nurseries and in the winter quarters. You can usually find two or three different species in one roost, with the individual species hanging together in their own clusters as well as being a real mix. Several million animals can live in a colony. The bracken cave near Austin in Texas is home to around 20 million animals of the guano bat Tadarida brasiliensis . A serious disadvantage of colony formation is the transferability of diseases such as B. WNS .

A ranking within bat colonies has not yet been described, but male bats drive their competitors out of the mating areas. If there are disruptions within the quarters, the answer is a threatening with a wide mouth and screaming, and after a short time calm returns. Some species react to slight disturbances with a frightened position in which they press themselves on the ground, with more intense threats these species play dead ( paralysis ).

As with many other social animals, there is also a swarming behavior in bats , in which the actions of individuals lead to the participation of other animals. As a rule, after the departure of an animal, another start follows, and the cleaning of individual animals also causes others to start. When cleaning, however, there is no mutual grooming in most species, instead each animal concentrates on itself. Only the young animals are cleaned by the mother in the first days of life. Mutual licking of the face has been observed in various species, especially horseshoe bats, but it is assumed that this is not a question of cleaning behavior, but rather communication gestures.


Natural enemies of bats are mainly diurnal and nocturnal predators , especially cats, as well as birds of prey and owls . There are also a number of large, carnivorous bat species that hunt smaller bats in addition to other prey.


Flock of bats in Texas (video)

With their echolocation system (or ultrasound location ), the bats have developed a very complicated and effective method that enables them to find their way around in the dark and hunt insects without using their eyes. They come ultrasound of waves that of objects as reflections are thrown back. The individual echoes are picked up by the bat and put into the correct sequence. By the time differences that can brain capture the environment and thus locate how far a tree or insect is removed and even with what speed and direction of a prey animal moves. With the big hare's mouth ( Noctilio leporinus ) the volume of the call can reach up to 140 decibels .

Research history

For a long time it was assumed that bats had extremely good eyesight because they could find their way in absolute darkness. In the 18th century, the Italian scientist Lazzaro Spallanzani made the first experiments with bats and owls , in which he made the animals fly in dark rooms. While all owls failed, bats found their way around. Some time later he carried out further experiments, this time with bats, which he had gouged out the eyes of. These animals were also able to fly without any problems, while specimens with sealed ears fell to the ground.

When Hiram Maxim , inventor of the machine gun, in 1913 with sonar systems for navigation at sea and locate the sunken Titanic employed, he believed on the right track, but he was wrong, because he assumed that bats low Make sounds with the flapping of their wings. It was not until George W. Pierce developed a sound detector for high frequency sounds shortly before World War II that the true nature of the bat sonar was recognized.

The bat echolocation system

So that the echolocation system can function properly and all possibilities are optimally exploited, a special adaptation of the various organs is necessary. In bats, many parts of the body are precisely designed for the use of echolocation. However, there are also bats that do not have an echolocation system. Within the flying fox family , only the rosette bats have an echolocation system. The other species compensate for the lack of echolocation with very large, light-sensitive eyes.

The call

Spectrogram : Calls from a pipistrelle bat during the hunt (recording time: 1.1 seconds). The lower main frequency is - typical of the species - approx. 45 kHz. Immediately (150  milliseconds ) before the prey contact, the call interval and duration are greatly reduced (" feeding buzz "). The time-expanded recording belonging to the spectrogram can be listened to as the audio file
Chirps190918-22s.mp3 .

The call usually consists of a series of five or more different tones, which can have a duration of less than a second to a hundredth of a second, see also chirp . Bats can emit frequencies between 9 kHz and 200 kHz. Adults usually only perceive frequencies in a range between 16 Hz and a maximum of 18 kHz. With the help of bat detectors or, in general, ultrasound recording devices, ultrasound calls can also be made audible for people and analyzed with regard to structure and frequency content. Using methods such as frequency mixing or time expansion, these devices convert the calls into sound waves of lower frequencies that fall within the human hearing range.

The bats could theoretically use both lower and higher frequencies for hunting, but high-frequency calls have many advantages, such as shorter wavelengths, which enable a more precise spatial separation and the clearer delimitation of the reverberation from background noise. Lower frequencies, which have longer wavelengths, wash around small objects and therefore hardly send back echoes.

In the vicinity of the trees, the hunters only call softly to prevent multiple echoes from overlapping (echo salad), while in open terrain they utter loud screams. A bat constantly adapts its reputation (within its species-specific possibilities and basic structure) to the situation. In open areas, the calls are longer, louder and less frequency-modulated; in the vicinity of backgrounds and when an insect is caught, they are shorter and more frequency-modulated.

Audio example: Ultrasonic calls of hunting bats converted into sounds audible to the human ear
Audio example: The slowed-down playback ("time stretching"; here 20 times) of bat calls allows different types of calls to be differentiated on the basis of their pitch, call duration and other characteristics.

A typical bat call consists of two components, namely the constant frequency component (CF) and a component whose frequency decreases over time ( FM ). However, the calls differ greatly between species and groups. Horseshoe bats have z. B. a very long (many ms), constant-frequency call, the beginning and end of which is very weakly frequency-modulated. Other types use very short, only frequency-modulated calls, while others use somewhat longer calls with a more detailed constant-frequency part. In addition, the calls differ in the number of harmonics .

The CF component of the call has a constant frequency (CF = "constant frequency"), comparable to that of a tuning fork . It has a long range and provides the bat with a single-colored, long-lasting echo. Only a few bats (e.g. the horseshoe bats) mainly use CF calls (with a small FM part at the beginning and / or end). Other types use so-called quasi-constant-frequency calls, which are only weakly frequency-modulated, as search sounds in open air space.

The FM component of bat calls has a frequency that decreases over time ( FM = "frequency modulated"). It has a shorter range than the CF component, but provides an echo with which surface structures can also be recognized. FM calls are mostly used to track prey. Most bats only use FM calls with varying degrees of frequency modulation.

Generation and broadcast

The call is generated by bats, as is usual with mammals, in the larynx , where air is pressed between two membranes (the vocal cords) and these start to vibrate . By tensing the muscles that hold the membranes in place, different pitches can be created.

Before the sound waves exit the mouth or nose , they are amplified and filtered in the throat and pharynx. Bats that call through their noses often have complicated nasal attachments that strongly focus the sound waves and direct them in the right directions. Bats with such attachments, such. B. the horseshoe bats , often have smaller ears.

Reception and processing

Bats are able to modulate their call in order to hunt insects even in a complex environment.

The bats' funnel-shaped ears are very sensitive to both the direction of the echoes and the quality of the sound . You can twist and tilt your ears to pinpoint specific sound sources . Each ear receives independently of the other.

The cochlea , which is especially adapted to the hunting frequency, has many coils, which means that they have a more differentiated frequency analysis than other mammals, such as humans. Only horseshoe bats have a highly differentiated frequency analysis in the narrow frequency range of a few kilohertz in which they call. Your cochlea covers this area finely, creating what is known as an "acoustic fovea", comparable to the fovea (yellow spot) in our eyes.

After the echoes have been picked up in the ears, this information is passed on to the brain , where the different echoes are put into the correct order based on their frequencies and then analyzed. The longer an echo takes to reach the ear again after the call, the further away the reflector is . A time interval of one millisecond corresponds approximately to an object distance of 17 centimeters (traveled sound path to the object and back so 34 cm). Since the perception of distance depends on the speed of sound and thus on the temperature of the air, the bats also developed a finely developed temperature perception, which is included in the perception of distance. Bats can detect transit times of up to 0.1 milliseconds. Since both ears receive the ultrasound echoes, the brain can combine the two images into a 3D image that more than stands up to a comparison with our eye image.

In addition to the size and shape of an object , the surface structure and thus the material can also be recognized. The object size is determined by the volume of the echo. However, since the same volume can either come from a small, close or a large, far away object, the distance is first determined, then the actual size can be determined.

The recognition of the object shape is based on the evaluation of the volume and the temporal progression of the echo. An echo occurs on several echo fronts that indicate the shape of an object. Materials and surface structures are differentiated through the timbre of the sound. The timbre of an object arises from object-typical interferences (superimpositions) of the sound waves, whereby certain frequencies are amplified and others are weakened.

Direction determination

In order for the bat to know whether an object is to the left or right of its current position, it evaluates, like many other animal species, the time differences when the sound arrives in both ears. If the echo of the same object reaches the left ear later than the right, then the object is to her right. How the animals recognize whether the object is above or below them has not yet been clarified beyond doubt. It is believed that they evaluate the interference pattern of the sound waves, as humans do.

Doppler effect

The Doppler effect , i.e. a shift in frequency, occurs as soon as sound waves hit moving objects. When an object moves towards the bat, or the bat moves towards an object, the frequency increases and the tone becomes higher, while moving away does the opposite. Bats (horseshoe bats?) Can recognize differences of only 6 Hz and thus determine the speed of movement. Horseshoe bat bats are able to analyze the Doppler shifts generated by the wing beats of insects (especially moths) and to determine the size of the insect via the volume of the echo and the frequency of the wing beats via the frequency of the Doppler shifts per second. This enables them to differentiate between different types of insects.


Pipistrelle bat (
Pipistrellus pipistrellus )

The pipistrelle recognizes wires of 0.28 mm from more than a meter away, chasing a day about 500 to 1200 fruit flies ( Drosophila ), which is about three millimeters long. Other bat species, such as the Mediterranean horseshoe bat, can even find a way between 0.05 millimeter thick wires. Experiments have shown that the signals recorded by the bat's ear and processed in the brain make it possible to distinguish between targets that are only 10 millimeters apart, even if the objects have completely different dimensions .


Evolutionary Aspects

The oldest bat fossil is dated 50 million years ago. Hence, the evolution of bats is seen in the Eocene (the Eocene began about 56 million years ago and ended about 33.9 million years ago).

Depending on the shape of the skull, the bats have specialized in a small circle of food sources. For example, nectar-drinking bats have long, narrow snouts, with which they reach optimally into flowers, whereas bats, which mainly feed on hard fruits, have a short, “pug-like” face. Leaf-nosed bats, on the other hand, live on insects, nectar, fruits, frogs, lizards and even blood. The development of a wider skull shape led to greater bite force in leaf-nosed bats 15 million years ago . This enabled them to find new sources of food. This “key technology” gave the leaf-nosed bats access to new resources such as fruits. This enabled a quick and varied breakdown into various new bat species. An interesting side effect is that seeds of many plant species are now being spread by bats.

Internal system

The bats, together with the flying foxes (Megachiroptera), are one of the traditional suborders of the bats (Chiroptera). Current molecular studies show, however, that the horseshoe bat-like (Rhinolophoidea), a group of bats, are more closely related to the flying foxes than to the other bats. The bats thereby become a paraphyletic group, which is undesirable in a modern system where all descendants of a common ancestor should belong to a ( monophyletic ) group. Today the bats are divided into the Yinpterochiroptera or Pteropodiformes, that is the clade of the flying foxes and horseshoe bat-like and the Yangochiroptera or Vespertilioniformes, the clade of the other bats. The bats lose their taxonomic rank, but the term is still part of many common names of individual species.

Yangochiroptera and Yinpterochiroptera have the rank of subordination within the bats. There are five superfamilies and around 20 families.

Internal systematics of the bats

 Smooth-nosed cantails (Emballonuridae)


 Slit noses (Nycteridae)


 Malagasy sticky disc bats (Myzopodidae)


 New Zealand bats (Mystacinidae)


 Chin-leaf bats (Mormoopidae)


 Leaf noses (Phyllostomidae)


 American disc bats (Thyropteridae)


 Stump thumb (Furipteridae)


 Rabbit mouths (Noctilionidae)


 Smooth-nosed (Vespertilionidae)


 Bulldog bats (Molossidae)


 Funnel ears (Natalidae)


 Fruit bats (Pteropodidae)


 Horseshoe bat (Rhinolophidae)


 Mouse-tailed bats (Rhinopomatidae)


 Pig- nosed bat (Craseonycteridae)


 Large-leaf noses (Megadermatidae)

Template: Klade / Maintenance / Style

European species

Central Europe

Great mouse-eared mouse ( Myotis myotis )

Approximately 30 species are distributed in Central Europe, all of which belong to the horseshoe bat (Rhinolophidae) or smooth-nosed bat (Vespertilionidae). The following list is alphabetical and not systematic:

Pipistrelle bat ( Pipistrellus pipistrellus )

Southern Europe

A number of other species are found in southern Europe , some of them occasionally as wanderers in Central Europe. These include:

Development history

Icaronycteris index

The history of the development of bats is only very sparsely documented by fossil finds. The oldest genera found so far include Onychonycteris and Icaronycteris index from the early Eocene of the Green River Formation Wyoming as well as Archaeonycteris , Palaeochiropteryx , Hassianycteris and Tachypteron franzeni from the Middle Eocene of the Messel Pit in Germany. These early representatives are already very similar in their physique to today's bats, differences exist only in details such as the presence of finger claws and a long, free tail (which is also found in today's mouse- tailed bats ). The Eocene genera are also likely to have been capable of echolocation.

In contrast to other mammalian taxa that are difficult to classify, such as whales, the fossil record has so far provided no evidence of transitional forms . As a result, the conditions that led to the evolution of flapping flight in bats are unclear. John Speakman, professor of zoology at the University of Aberdeen , reconstructs the evolution of bats in such a way that these animals were initially diurnal and only under the pressure of birds of prey increasingly shifted to catching prey at night. At the same time, echolocation developed.

Bats evidently achieved worldwide distribution as early as the Eocene - finds in Europe, North America and Australia have been documented from this epoch. Since fossil records are missing for many families, little is known about the development history of the group.

Humans and bats

Bats in mythology and symbolism

The oldest known representation of a bat in Indonesia at Candi Ceto, an East Javanese temple from the 15th century.

In China , the bat is a symbol of luck and profit . This is because the Chinese words for bat ( Chinese   , pinyin ) and for luck / blessing ( Chinese   , pinyin ) have the same pronunciation . As five bats ( wǔ fú ; 五 蝠), bats were often arranged as embroidery on pieces of clothing or as a round talisman around a tree of life , where they also stood for long life, wealth, health and easy death. In Central America, images of a Mayan bat deity were found on stone pillars and clay vessels that were around 2000 years old. This deity had a bat's head and spread wings and can also be found in the people's pictorial writing.

On some east Indonesian islands, bats are feared because of their ominous nature. They are supposed to spread a bad omen and are considered to be the embodiment of vampires. The Torajas on the island of Sulawesi attribute the magical significance of bats to the large flying foxes, Kalong . The Kalong live in the caves where the Toraja placed the bones of their venerated ancestors. Bats also play a role as totem animals in traditional beliefs in eastern Indonesia, and in Australia they appear in some origin myths . On the top terrace of Candi Ceto, an East Javanese temple on Mount Lawu from the 15th century, there is a depiction of a bat lying on the ground with a turtle on its back. The motif of the bat on Java is likely to be of Chinese origin, but the cultic and religious significance of this temple is unclear.

In Europe, the bat has also been predominantly negative since ancient times. For example, in his Metamorphoses (IV, 1–34), Ovid relates that the daughters of the King of Boeotia were turned into bats as punishment for preferring to work at the loom and telling themselves stories from mythology instead of them Celebrations in honor of Bacchus . The Bible , too, attributes negative properties to bats, counts them as unclean animals (more precisely, to the birds) and connects them with pagan idols ( Deuteronomy 14:16 and Isaiah , 2:20). The Doctor of the Church Basil of Caesarea ( Homily 8), on the other hand, called the bats God's nocturnal creatures and described their way of life. He named people as a role model that they support each other.

Demonic and diabolical beings - including Satan (the devil ) himself - are often depicted with bat wings in the fine arts , which distinguishes them from angels .

Satan (engraving by Gustave Doré
in John Milton's Paradise Lost )

On Albrecht Dürer's well-known graphic sheet Melancholie from 1514, a creature reminiscent of a bat holds the words Melencolia I between day and night . The Spanish painter Francisco de Goya used bats next to owls as symbols of the threatening. An old superstition has it that bats like to wrap themselves in women's hair. This probably arose from the idea that the hair of women attracts demons or “evil” in general. Among the rural population of Mexico, the vampire bats are sometimes still considered to be witches who suck the blood of sleeping people.

Bats are also associated with the soul and therefore with death . On some depictions from the 14th century, the souls leave the body in the form of a bat when they die. This could also lead to the European vampire tales that existed before the Central American vampire bats were known. This belief in vampires has remained in popular culture to this day and is mainly reflected in the imagination of book authors and filmmakers. Characters like Count Dracula or The Little Vampire fly around at night as bats looking for their victims. Other vampire films such as the dance of the vampires also use this motif. The creation of the comic and film character Batman - a superhero who, in bat disguise, goes on the hunt for criminals at night - is also inspired by the nocturnal way of life .

Cesare Ripa in his work Iconologia assigns the bat to the personification of ignorance under the keyword Ignoranca , since the animal prefers to remain in the dark instead of approaching the light of truth. In classical Persian literature , too , the bat is a symbol of the rejection of knowledge and goodness (i.e. light) and is driven away by the sun (as a symbol of a just ruler).

The coat of arms of the municipality of Fiefbergen shows a silver flying forest bat (great noctule bat: Nyctalus noctula ) in frontal view.

Bats as food

Bats are considered a delicacy in parts of Africa and Asia. Strabo ( Geographika 16,1,7) reports that the inhabitants of the Mesopotamian Borsippa caught the very numerous and conspicuously large bats and salted them for food. The Inca ruler Atahualpa had a gray coat made of bat wool.

Bats in folk medicine

Bats have also found international use in folk medicine . Whole bats or parts of them are part of protective amulets in various primitive peoples in Africa and Asia. In the Arab countries and also in Europe there were many recipes, especially in the Middle Ages, in which bat parts were used against a wide variety of diseases and ailments. In the 13th century, for example, Albertus Magnus recommended that you rub your face with bat blood if you want to see clearly at night. As a demonic animal, the bat was used homeopathically to ward off demons, and in Christian times also from witches and devils.

In addition to flying foxes, bats can still be found alive in Indian bazaars: their skin is peeled off, which is freshly placed on the affected parts of the body to heal wounds.

Special wooden boxes can be attached to reintroduce bats.

Threat and protection

Barracks in
Jena, converted for bats
"Welcome greeting" at Marienberg Fortress in Würzburg
Part of a prefabricated building that has been preserved and converted as a bat
quarter ( "bat tower" )

The main global threats to bats include habitat loss and, to a lesser extent, hunting by humans. Species endemic to small islands are particularly endangered. The IUCN lists four species as extinct, around 20 as critically endangered, and numerous others as threatened or endangered.

17 of the German species are included in the endangerment categories on the German Red List .

According to Annex IV of the Habitats Directive , all bat species native to the territory of the European Union are strictly protected animal species of community interest. 13 selected bat species are also listed in Appendix II of the Habitats Directive. Special protection areas must be designated for these species throughout the EU.

The European Bat Night is an annual event designed to raise awareness of the threat to these animals.

The International Bat Museum Julianenhof informs visitors about the protection of bats and their environment. It documents the life of animals and shows the development of their exploration. The museum works closely with scientists and bat researchers.

Caves and tunnels are winter quarters. According to Section 39, Paragraph 6 of the Federal Nature Conservation Act, these may not be entered from October 1st to March 31st. The ethical guidelines for cave protection support the protection of bats.

As nature conservation compensation measures z. For example, abandoned bunkers were declared and prepared as bat winter quarters, an example was taken in Katzenhagen (MV). Also icehouse be converted into bat roosts. In some cases, other structures were also used to protect bats. In Coesfeld z. B. converted a former barracks building into a year-round quarter.

As with the historical town hall Höxter , the attics of various historical buildings with nurseries for bats were designated as FFH areas in 2004 . A former brewery building in Frankfurt (Oder) was designated as a whole as a FFH area Fledermausquartier Brauereikeller Frankfurt (Oder) with a size of 0.25  ha . In 2006 the ruins were also designated as a nature reserve with the same name.

Destruction of habitats

Bat box as a low-maintenance year-round roost under the eaves

Bats are among the culture successors , as they z. Sometimes they nest in human dwellings and catch nocturnal flying insects from the air in the light of a lamp, sometimes in the light of street lamps, sometimes even with the windows open in living rooms. They are primarily endangered by the destruction of their habitats, for example through the renovation of old buildings and the sealing of potential sleeping places, through the destruction of insect habitats, through the destruction of dead wood and poisoning with insect repellants and wood protection paints. The great mouse- eared bat ( Myotis myotis , see photo above), pipistrelle bat ( Pipistrellus pipistrellus ), noctule bat ( Nyctalus noctula ) and water bat ( Myotis daubentonii ) are no longer as rare . Mouse-eared bat females form large nurseries in attics in summer , where they give birth and raise their young together. These nurseries and other bat roosts (trees with hollows, crevice roosts, caves and tunnels and bat boxes) must be preserved like the other habitats. The creation of replacement roosts in the form of bat boxes, which serve not only to protect the bat species but also for biological pest control , is only of second priority .

Since building-dwelling bat species have developed both settlements and cities, they are essential elements of urban nature. However, they are at risk from renovations or modern construction methods. Therefore, they must be taken into account during construction work. The state association for bird protection in Munich is committed to the preservation of bat and wild bird species that live in buildings with its project "Species protection on buildings".

Wrong locations of wind turbines

Bats also have accidents on wind turbines. First observed in the USA and Australia, research is now being carried out in Europe on the extent and background of the deaths. Investigations in 2008 showed that no direct contact between bat and wind turbine is necessary as a cause of death, but that many animals suffer barotrauma , which is triggered by pressure differences, especially at the ends of the rotor blades. In Germany so far 13 bat species (as of November 2005) with several hundred individuals have crashed at the facilities; the number of unreported cases is likely to be high, as only a tiny number of the systems are checked.

There are obviously various reasons for accidents, some of which overlap and intensify:

  • during the migration period in August and September, the collisions increase,
  • mainly affected species that hunt in free air space and / or pull over long distances, such as the noctule that Serotine , the lesser noctule , the parti-colored bat ,
  • some locations, for example in or near the forest, are particularly prone to impact,
  • certain weather conditions - temperature, wind speed - favor the bat riot,
  • the bats are believed to be attracted by the red warning lights flashing on wind turbines.

The problem of blow victims on wind turbines shows that there is still a considerable need for research. Some findings that were previously considered certain are being questioned. So there were species with which one flight altitudes up to max. Assumed 20 m as a victim under wind turbines. The Alpine bat, which has not been recorded north of the Alps for over 50 years, was found as a victim on a wind turbine in Brandenburg.

See also wind turbine # bird and bat rash .

Disease transmission

Possible routes of transmission of bat-specific pathogens to humans.

Bats can endanger humans and other animals as they can transmit various diseases through their bites and droppings.

Bat rabies

The first rabid bat was discovered in Hamburg in 1954. Until 1985, very few infected bats were found in Europe. Since then, bat rabies has spread rapidly. Two thirds of all rabid bats have been registered in Denmark and the Netherlands. About 20 percent of the animals infected in Europe were recorded in Germany. Bat rabies - which is not identical to fox rabies - is caused by the European bat virus ( European Bat Lyssavirus , EBLV, type I and II) and was found 13 times in Germany in 2003 (Berlin 3, Bremen 1, Lower Saxony 3, Saxony -Anhalt 1, Schleswig-Holstein 5, Bavaria several in the following years). However, the relatively small number of examinations is not very meaningful.

The virus is mainly transmitted through the bite of an infected animal, but infection is also possible if the skin is damaged or if infectious saliva comes into direct contact with the mucous membrane. Vaccination, Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), is recommended every time they come into contact with a bat.

There have been four confirmed human rabies cases in Europe to date:

  • 1977 in Ukraine,
  • 1985 in Finland and Russia.
  • On November 24, 2002, a bat bite caused the first human rabies case in Scotland in 100 years.

The most common is the flat-winged bat ( Eptesicus serotinus ).



The MERS-CoV virus was transmitted to humans through dromedaries . The virus has been detected in dromedaries in various countries in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. According to information from the World Health Organization in early 2019, the origin is not yet fully known, but analyzes of various virus genomes indicate that the virus originated in bats and was transmitted to camels in the past.


As part of the “Ecology and Pathogenesis of SARS” project, researchers under the direction of Christian Drosten were able to prove that coronaviruses also occur in bats living in Germany. The researchers found group I coronaviruses in every tenth bat's feces. The transmission mostly takes place in nursery colonies.


While research shows that SARS-CoV-2 originated in bats, it is not yet clear how it was transmitted to humans, i.e. how it was transmitted to humans. that is, whether there was an intermediate host, such as the Malay pangolin .


In 2019, researchers detected the highly dangerous Ebola virus in a species of bat from Liberia. On closer inspection, great similarities with the Zaire Ebola virus were found.

Suspected reservoir of viruses

A reservoir of paramyxovirus species is suspected in bats and rodents . Up to now, 86 bat and 33 rodent species have been examined, mainly tropical species. According to a study, the mumps virus has spread from bats to humans. In this study, only bats and rodents were examined, no animals in the food chain before and after. There was no test as to whether the animals had ingested the viruses through their food (and were thus only intermediate hosts ). Other vectors (which have not been investigated, such as insects) would also be possible as vectors.

Use of the excretions

Bats, unlike most other mammals, but just like birds and reptiles , excrete nitrogen compounds as guanine . Guanine is more energetic than urea , but hardly needs any water for excretion , so that the animals do not need as much drinking water as other mammals and the water does not have to be carried around in the body. This saving of moving mass supports the flight ability.

Cave deposits from bat excrement can reach minable thicknesses as so-called cave guano . Cave guano, like island guano , which consists of seabird excretions, is used as a phosphate-rich fertilizer .


  • Nyctalus : Specialized journal with original scientific papers and small notices from all areas of bat research and bat protection.
  • Klaus Richarz: Bats: Observe, Recognize and Protect. Kosmos, 1st edition August 2004, ISBN 978-3-440-12555-7 (introduction for bat fans)
  • Fritz Dieterlen, Monika Braun (ed.): The mammals of Baden-Württemberg. Volume 1: General Part and Bats (Chiroptera). Ulmer, Stuttgart 2003, ISBN 3-8001-3282-6 (very good textbook on mammals, especially bats)
  • Christian Dietz, Otto von Helversen , Dietmar Nill: Handbook of the bats of Europe and Northwest Africa. Biology, characteristics, endangerment. Kosmos, Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 3-440-09693-9 , ISBN 978-3-440-09693-2 (new standard work, scientific research)
  • Gerhard Neuweiler : Biology of the bats. Thieme, Stuttgart 1993, ISBN 3-13-787401-7
  • Jochen Niethammer, Franz Krapp (Hrsg.): Handbook of mammals in Europe. Volume 4/1: Bats. Aula, Wiesbaden 2001, ISBN 3-89104-638-3 (very detailed and up-to-date textbook)
  • Jochen Niethammer, Franz Krapp (Hrsg.): Handbook of mammals in Europe. Volume 4/2: Bats. Aula, Wiesbaden 2004, ISBN 3-89104-639-1 (very detailed and up-to-date textbook)
  • Ronald M. Nowak: Walker's Mammals of the World . 6th edition. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore 1999, ISBN 0-8018-5789-9 (English).
  • Björn Siemers, Dietmar Nill (eds.): Bats: the practical book. BLV, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-405-15930-X
  • Nancy B. Simmons, Jonathan H. Geisler: Phylogenetic relationships of Icaronycteris, Archeonycteris, Hassianycteris and Palaeochiropteryx to extant bat lineages, with comments on the evolution of echolocation and foraging strategies in microchiroptera. In: Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. New York NY 235., ISSN  0003-0090 , pp. 1-82
  • Wilfried Schober and Eckard Grimmberger (Ed.): The bats of Europe. 2nd Edition. Kosmos, Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-440-07597-4
  • Stefan Schürmann, Christian Strätz: Bats in the district of Wunsiedel in the Fichtelgebirge . Ed .: District of Wunsiedel i. Fichtelgebirge, 2010 (without ISBN)
  • Reinald Skiba : Bats: Identification, Echolocation and Detector Use (Die Neue Brehm-Bücherei, Volume 648). 2., revised. Edition 2009, ISBN 3-89432-907-6
  • Sven Klimpel, Heinz Mehlhorn (Eds.): Bats (Chiroptera) as Vectors of Diseases and Parasites: Facts and Myths. Springer, 2014. ISBN 978-3-642-39332-7 [Print]; ISBN 978-3-642-39333-4 [eBook]
  • Lin-Fa Wang & Christopher Cowled (Eds.): Bats and Viruses: A New Frontier of Emerging Infectious Diseases. Wiley-Blackwell, New York 2015. ISBN 978-1-118-81873-2
  • Merlin Tuttle: The Secret Lives of Bats: My Adventures with the World's Most Misunderstood Mammals. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York 2015, ISBN 978-0-544-38227-5

Web links

Wiktionary: Bat  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Bats  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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This version was added to the list of excellent articles on December 19, 2005 .