PHOTO: World's ugliest bats sing through 'face masks' made of skin

December 1, 2020
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It’s hard to unsee this one.

A shocking photo captured by scientists shows an abnormal looking bat, otherwise known as the wrinkle-faced bat. In comparison to normal bats, their looks may turn heads, but it's their mating habits that really have us raising an eyebrow.

For these creatures, when breeding time comes around, they come together in groups and cover the lower half of their wrinkly faces with white-furred flaps of skin that appear like face masks.

Soon after, the bats will sing ultrasonic songs through the masks while flapping their wings.

According to Live Science, scientists researched and found that the skip flap under these creatures’ chins had something to do with courtship. Recently, researchers documented this bewildering sight for the first time.

Rodríguez-Herrera, a professor at the School of Biology and director of the Center for Research in Biodiversity and Tropical Ecology at Costa Rica University, put together a team to study and record the bats.

The researchers found that dozens of male bats masked up, making them the only ones in this species with the masks. In the study, researchers shared that the “mask seducers” assembled and sang in a group.

Scientists recorded a video with an infrared-sensitive camera and captured audio of the bats’ ultrasonic songs and echolocation calls.

According to the study, scientists are unsure of why males would mask up for mating. It is unlikely that they are wearing face masks like humans do to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Researchers say the males may mask up to send a visual signal to females that they are ready to mate.

The study reported that as many as 30 male bats were seen during the same night. Most of the time, they were masked, using their “thumbs” to pull the masks up or down. When a male successfully attracted a female bat, he “immediately lowered his mask” to mate with her.

Wrinkle-faced bats live in forests “from Mexico throughout Central America to Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago,” and eat fruits and seeds.

“We think that these bats are nomads, they move around a lot,” study co-author Marco Tschapka, a research associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute from the University of Ulm in Germany, said in the statement. “We may never get to see this behavior again in our lifetimes.”

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