Scientific name: Myotis sodalis
Length: 3 - 3.5 inches
Wingspan: 9.5 - 10.5 inches
Weight: 0.16 - 0.34 ounces
Characteristics: varies from dark to light brown, sometimes a dullish gray; distinguished by pink lips
Habitat: in winter - caves and mines; in warmer months - females and their young will roost under the bark of large trees; unclear where males go
Range: the midwestern, southern & eastern parts of the United States; locations more limited in the winter than in the summer
Diet: small insects
Reproduction: breed once a year, in the fall; average of 1 pup a season; gestation lasts for 60 days
Lifespan: average of 14 years
Conservation status: federally and state endangered specie;restricted to only a few caves; increasingly threatened by white-nose syndrome
As a federally endangered species since 1967, it goes without saying that the recent sudden deaths of Indiana Bats across the eastern United States have been the cause of much concern for conservationists and scientists alike. Called the white-nose syndrome, this disease has put the risk to the Indiana Bat at an all-time high.
Indiana bats were first found in the Wyandotte Caves of southern Indiana, hence the name. However, it is their scientific name - Myotis sodalis - that describes these bats perfectly. Myotis means "mouse ears" which refers to the tiny, mouse-like ears that all bats in this genus share. The species name - sodalis - means "companion" in Latin, and refers to their highly social nature.
Indiana bats are also known as the social bat and for good reason. During hibernation, Indiana bats will cluster together in large groups in their hibernacula - caves in which bats hibernate. Huddling close together allows the bats to keep warm and muffles sound to limit any disturbances. Bat clusters also serve as an early warning system against predators. Bats outside of the mass can easily, and quickly, alert the other bats that danger is near.
Indiana bats are not only found in caves nor do they only exist in the Hoosier state. Indiana bats can be found in most of eastern United States, though the largest populations are found in Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri. After hibernation, Indiana bats migrate to summer roosts, which are generally the edges of hardwood forests. Females tend to stay together, making homes with their pups under the loose bark of trees. There are some questions as to why males roost singly or in small groups and not with the females.
There are even more questions to the unprecedented die-offs of thousands of Indiana bats in northeastern United States. Scientists have found evidence of a fungal disease - called white-nose syndrome - which may or may not be symptomatic of an even graver disease.