Long-eared desert bats have made Israel’s Negev desert their home. Now, scientists have discovered that the winged creatures aren’t just toughing it out in harsh terrain, they also rely on a deadly prey to survive.
Researchers at Ben Gurion University of the Negev set out to learn more about the bats’ physiology. Along the way, they also found out the bats had a fondness not only for beetles and moths but also scorpions.
The realization that the bats munched on the stinging insects, however, raised one important question: How is it the bats do not get stung?
At first, the BGU team thought that the bats may have learned to pick the scorpions up by the tail. They soon learned, though, that the bats did not seem at all particular how they handled their prey.
They also only ate live scorpions, often consuming them headfirst and usually eating the whole thing, including the stinger and the poison gland.
Dr. Carmi Korine of the BGU Department of Desert Ecology also noted that the bats did not approach the scorpions in a certain angle to avoid getting stung either, in fact, they seemed to get stung a lot.
This led scientists to ponder if the bats were perhaps immune to a certain scorpion’s sting and if they specialized in one variety of the stinging insects.
“We discovered they aren’t fussy,” Korine said. “They are generalists, eating a wide range of scorpions, including the deadliest of the lot in Israel – the yellow scorpion. They prey on those very happily.”
While the BGU team is not sure why the bats don’t seem to mind getting stung just yet, they stressed that their scorpion-eating habits are just one way that the flying mammals have learned to survive in some of harshest terrain in all of Israel.
The BGU team also pointed out that the tiny Israeli desert bats are fearless and may very well be “nature’s toughest bats.”