Although bats and birds can both be found soaring through the air, the two are not one in the same. In fact, bats are mammals of the order Chiroptera, and birds are well, just birds, classified as such by their feathers. A bat’s forelimbs form webbed wings, actually making them the only mammals that are naturally capable of true, sustained flight. Other mammals said to fly, such as the flying squirrel can only merely glide short distances.
A common misconception is that bats and birds fly the same way, when truthfully bats do not flap their entire forelimbs as birds do. Instead, bats can be seen flapping their spread out fingers which are long and covered with a thin membrane. That’s right, we said fingers! Not only are bats equipped with digits, they are also more flexible than those of other mammals due to their flattened cross section and low levels of minerals such as calcium, located near the tips. The skin on a bat’s wing membranes also have more elasticity, allowing them to stretch further than other animals.
Also different from a bird’s wings, a bat’s wings are much thinner, making it able for them to maneuver quickly and accurately. Unfortunately, being so thin, it is also dangerously delicate and can be ripped easily. The good news is that the tissue of a bat’s membrane is able to regrow, so any small rips he or she may encounter from time to time, will quickly heal. The surface of a bat’s wings are also equipped with touch-sensitive receptors on small bumps called Merkel cells. These cells are also found on the fingertips of a human. These sensitive areas are much different in bats however, as each bump comes packed with a tiny hair in the center, making it even more sensitive and allowing the creature to detect and collect important information about the air flowing over its wings, and allowing it to fly more efficiently by changing the shape of its wings in response.