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Bats have been misunderstood and maligned in the West for centuries. Unfair associations with demons have seen their leathery wings adorn numerous evil characters, from the Devil to Bram Stoker's Dracula. But these amazing animals are ecological superheroes. Nectar-feeding bats pollinate important crops like agave; fruit-eating bats disperse seeds and encourage reforestation; and insect-eating bats keep down mosquito populations and other pests, saving agricultural industries billions of dollars. Ranging from the size of a bumblebee to those with a wingspan the length of an adult human, they are the only mammals possessing true flight and are found on all continents except Antarctica.
In Bat Tessa Laird challenges preconceptions about these amazing animals, combining fascinating facts of bat biology with engaging portrayals of bats in mythology, literature, film, popular culture, poetry and contemporary art. She also provides a sobering reminder of the risks bats face worldwide, from heatwaves and human harassment to wind turbines and disease. Illustrated with incredible photographs and artistic representations of bats from many different cultures and eras, this celebration of bats contains much to enthral converts and sceptics alike.
1 Dazzling Diversity: The Biology of Chiroptera
2 Bats in the Belfry: Myths, Madness and Melancholia
3 Good Luck Charm: Branded by the Bat
4 The Beleaguered Bat: Depredation, Disease and Death
5 Potent Totem: The Bat in Art and Philosophy
Associations and websites
Tessa Laird is Lecturer in Critical and Theoretical Studies at the School of Art, Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne. Tessa was a noted New Zealand art critic for over twenty years, where she founded two important art magazines in the 1990s, Monica Reviews Art and LOG Illustrated. Her book A Rainbow Reader appeared in 2013.
"Tessa Laird's dazzling study takes in everything from Colombian breast plates to Chinese matchboxes, not to mention the Australian newsreader who raised an orphaned flying fox."
– Times Higher Education
"Bat is an important addition to the valuable Animal Series published by Reaktion Books. Itis thought-provoking, surprising, and deeply pleasurable to read – both for more introductory readers and for those deeply into animal studies. Laird feels and engages with bats not as objects but as subjects, lively and enchanting. She compellingly brings alive, or rather, shares the life of bats with her readers. Her writing – its understandings, insights, and questions – reveal a transdisciplinary dexterity and a theoretical sophistication [...] This deceptively small book is exuberant and generous."
"Did you know that the collective noun for bats is a "cloud", or that in the first scientific classification of mammals, bats were placed close to humans because, like us, they have two nipples? The book Bat, by Tessa Laird, is full of similar tidbits that you will want to share with others. It is also engrossing, eloquent and beautifully illustrated. Bat contains hundreds of delightful bat facts, but they are so grounded in context that the whole is much more than the sum of its parts. One cannot help but become intrigued and eventually transformed. I know I will never look at bats the same way again."
– The Conversation
"Bat is an interesting dissection of the many different sides of bats, from both a biological and a cultural view point. The book is full of intriguing, bizarre and astonishing facts about bats, from biology, pop culture, mythology, literature and art. The main focus is on the interaction of bats and human life – the way they are portrayed within different cultures, the effect that has on the cultural opinion and what that means for their protection in the law or lack thereof. Due to the mystery surrounding bats, they are frequently misunderstood and feared. Bats are associated with demons, devils and commonly in modern western culture, vampires. Too often considered demonic creatures of the night, they are in fact major contributors to pollinating the planet and in fact rarely spread disease. Bat is a celebration, showing the positive side of bats and uncovering many of the mysteries they have been shrouded in for so long."
– Hazel Evans, BTO book reviews