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Why Do Bats Look Like Dogs? Are They Related?

Bat hanging from a tree

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

Vet, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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By reputation, bats may be the stuff of Halloween nightmares, but in truth, they are fascinating creatures that play a vital role in their individual ecosystems. If you look closely at a bat’s face, you may find that they bear more than a passing resemblance to the family dog. But does this mean that bats and dogs are related?

While bats and dogs don’t fall into the same classification family, scientists have learned through DNA study that they most likely did have a common prehistoric ancestor. In this article, we’ll learn how bats and dogs are related, as well as look at a few similarities between the two species.

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How Bats And Dogs Are Related

In terms of classification, dogs fall into the family Canidae and the genus Canis. Other members of this genus include wolves and coyotes. Bat classification is much more complicated, but they make up their own order, Chiroptera, broken down into multiple families and genera.

The link between bats and dogs dates back to prehistoric times. Essentially, scientists place the two species together in a super-order called Pegasoferae, based on an analysis of their DNA. This super-order is also thought to contain cats, horses, whales, and hedgehogs.

Although they have yet to find a fossil link between all these creatures, their DNA similarities suggest that bats and dogs, along with the other members of the super-order, share a common prehistoric ancestor. While this genetic history doesn’t necessarily explain the odd resemblance between bats and dogs, it could play a role.

Other than this suspected common ancestor, there is no accepted explanation for why bats and dogs often look alike.

Similarities Between Bats And Dogs

Chihuahua with a snarling face
Image Credit: otsphoto, Shutterstock

Aside from the facial resemblance between bats and Chihuahuas, they appear on the surface to be pretty different. After all, dogs can’t fly, and they spend their nights sleeping instead of hunting. However, bats and dogs do share some similar features.

For example, both bats and dogs are placental mammals, meaning they produce a placenta when they’re pregnant. Adult male bats and dogs both feature a scrotum. The two animals have highly sensitive noses as well.

Physically, the bat’s face does look quite similar to a dog, with its large eyes and ears, pointed noses, and sharp teeth. Some species of bats are nicknamed “flying foxes,” while eight species of fruit bats are collectively known as “dog-faced bats” because the resemblance is so striking.

However, bats and dogs also have numerous differences, the biggest being that one is a wild animal while the other is domesticated. You won’t have good luck trying to keep a bat as a pet, for instance. They also have much different nutritional needs and are nocturnal creatures.

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Conclusion

While many people fear bats based on myths and misinformation, others took the time to look closer and discover that their often dog-like faces aren’t that scary. At their best, bats serve as pollinators and pest control specialists. On the flip side, they can serve as a host for diseases, most concerningly rabies. Bats are the primary cause of human rabies death in the U.S. because their bites often go undetected until it’s too late. Despite their DNA connection to dogs, bats are not safe to handle, approach, or keep as a pet. Play it safe and stick to oohing and ahhing over cute bat pictures online instead.


Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

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