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Word of the Week: Chiroptera

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Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Friday to amp up your nature vocabulary!

Chiroptera [ kahy-ROP-ter-uh] (zoology noun): The order of the only mammal capable of true flight, the bat. There are over 900 living species of bats, and they are found on every continent except Antarctica.

This fun word comes from the Greek words chier, which means hand, and pteron, which means wing.

Bat wings are very much like a human arm and hand, except that there is a thin membrane of skin (called the patagium) that extends between the “hand” and the body, and between each finger bone. They have four elongated “fingers” and even a “thumb.”

In addition to their wings looking like a hand, Bats can also move the wing like a hand, almost as if they are swimming through the air. The “thumb” extends out of the wing as a small claw, which bats use to climb up trees and other structures. This helps them reach a high “launching point” for flight takeoff.

It’s easy to see now how the word “Chiroptera” was influenced by the hand-like wings of bats!

To learn more about bats with the High Park Nature Centre, check out the “Brilliant Bats: Our Friends of the Night Sky” option for our online ReWild at Home programs for friends, family, or community groups!