Mouse-eared Bat

Associated Smithsonian Expert: Darrin P. Lunde, M.A.

Darrin Lunde on an expedition to the Bandalla Hills of South Sudan in the summer of 2013

Courtesy of Oliver Bench

Darrin Lunde is Collections Manager in the Division of Mammals at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The Mammal Collection is the largest collection of its kind in the world. Darrin started his career by building his own natural history museum when he was just ten years old, and by the time he went to college, he had mastered specimen preservation. After graduating from Cornell University, Darrin was hired by the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where he stayed for twenty years joining field expeditions to the remote corners of South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. He has discovered dozens of new species and shed light on hundreds of other lesser known mammals. Darrin earned a Master of Arts from the City University of New York and much of his interest in museums stems from having grown up in "nature deprived" New York City. To Darrin, museum collections are an important link to nature, and he is driven by the thought that in another century museums may be our only connection to the wild animals we take for granted today. At the Smithsonian, Darrin continues a program of active field work with his goal being to illuminate the rich diversity of mammals with which we still share the world.

Meet our associated expert

This image was obtained from the Smithsonian Institution. The image or its contents may be protected by international copyright laws.

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Perching Schlieffen's twilight bat (Nycticeius schlieffeni) showing wing membranes
Courtesy of Natalie Weber,, CC-BY-NC

About Bats (Order Chiroptera): Locomotion

Bats are the only mammals that truly fly. While some other mammals, such as flying squirrels, are able to glide, bats alone use flapping wings to power their flight. Their wings are formed from modified front legs, with a membrane connecting their fingers together but leaving the thumb free. Extra-long hand and finger bones give them a large wingspan. Thin, lightweight bones keep their body weight low. Bats flap their wings using muscles in their chests and backs, as well as extra muscles in the wing membrane. The rear ends of bats are also modified for flight. The wing membrane connects to the hind legs, and sometimes even to the tail, giving the bat more surface area for flying. Strong toes, some with tendons that can lock into a rigid position, allow bats to hang upside down. Suspended from sharp claws, they can quickly take flight.