Bats in Peril
Reading Comprehension Activity

Students will read a passage about bats and learn about the key role they play in various ecosystems. They will also learn about the threats they face from White-nose syndrome and wind turbines. Students will then answer questions about facts and main ideas.

Topic(s): Science. Skill(s): Summary, Main / Central Idea. Genre(s): Informational

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Bats are the only mammals that can truly fly. They play a very important role in ecosystems around the world. They help eliminate pests for farmers. They also help ensure that rainforests stay healthy. Bats face many threats though. This means ecosystems across the globe are threatened too.

There are more than 1,000 species of bats. The majority of bats are insectivores. This means that insects make up most of their diet. There are also bats that are nectar-eaters and fruit-eaters. A small number of bat species are blood-eaters. The common vampire bat is a blood-eater.

Nectar-eating bats and fruit-eating bats play a critical role in desert and tropical ecosystems. They are considered a “keystone species.” This means they help ensure a rich diversity of plant life and food for other animals. Nectar-eating bats help pollinate plants in these environments. Fruit-eating bats help spread seeds in their rainforest environment. They also help restore rainforests that have been chopped down by spreading seeds over large areas. Bats are sometimes called the “farmers of the tropics.”

Bats that are insectivores help farmers around the world with pest control. They eat insects that can damage agricultural crops. One pest that bats like to eat is called the corn earworm moth. This type of moth causes an estimated $1 billion a year in crop damage.

Bats can eat large amounts of insects during their nightly feeding period. For example, the famous bat colony that lives in Austin, Texas eats between 10,000 and 20,000 pounds of insects each night. The Austin colony is composed of 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats. The colony roosts under the Congress Avenue Bridge in downtown Austin during the summer months. It is the largest urban bat colony in North America. Many tourists come to watch the bats leave their roost in the evening.

Habitat loss is the biggest threat facing bats worldwide. Bats in North America are also in peril due to white-nose syndrome. This disease attacks bats while they are hibernating during the winter. It is caused by a white fungus that infects a bat’s muzzle, ears, and wings. White-nose syndrome is a deadly wildlife disease. Millions of bats in North America have died from the disease since it was first identified in 2006.

Wind turbines are a growing threat to bats as well. The spinning blades are dangerous for bats. Scientists also believe that the air pressure produced near wind turbines can damage the lungs of bats. Conservationists are studying whether sound can be used to deter bats from flying near wind turbines. Many bats have extremely sensitive hearing. Broadcasting high-frequency sounds might help keep them away from wind farms.

Large numbers of bat species are at risk of disappearing forever. Scientists believe that almost 80 species of bats are endangered or critically endangered. They also believe that over 900 species of bats are at risk of becoming endangered. Conservation organizations are working hard to save bats around the world. Although some people fear bats, they are an important part of the natural world. Protecting bats helps protect the environment.

Comprehension Questions

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