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Uploaded:2020-05-15
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The hammerheaded bat will occasionally pop up on your timeine and it's important to note that they are not as big as they look, but they are EXACTLY as weird as they look, at least the males are. It's almost upsetting...like, fruit bats are mostly really quite cute because there's no reason for evolution to torture their face into acoustically useful tools. And yet, even though it could have been cute, evolution was like, "No, I will sexually select you into making the worst possible noise with the worst possible face."

Anyway, I love them. I hope you're doing well. Thank you for reading the description...what a delightful thing to have done!
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Good morning, John.  So, let's start with a thing that's pretty good about the world.  There is a website called Snopes that got started specifically because the internet is bad at getting its stories straight, and Snopes has been around for ages, letting us reply with a simple URL when our aunts send us pictures of marbled fuarks to let them know that yeah, a marbled fuark isn't a thing.  In fact, Snopes has an entire 'Creatures' section and usually, it is pretty obvious that like, the sea roach is an animatronic from Pacific Rim or that this purple dragon lizard is definitely fake, but other times, it gets a little messy.

This, for example, isn't a picture of a hammerhead salamander, because hammerhead salamanders don't exist, but they did exist 250 million years ago, and that was a sculpture of what they probably looked like, which is, in many ways, just as weird, and while the bee hummingbird is the smallest bird, this is not a picture of it.  This is a miniature figurine of a chickadee, but for my money, the more interesting thing is when Snopes has a page for an animal not because someone made it up, but because no one believes it's real.

This is unsurprisingly the case for the shoebill stork and the Malabar giant squirrel, but in my humble opinion, the most bizarre of these Snopes creatures that are actually real is the hammer-headed bat, a mega-bat, and yes, that is the technical term, that isn't just real, it's downright common in West and Central Africa.  Now, the term is mega-bat, but to be a bat, you can't be that big, because you have to fly and you don't have feathers, and feathers are much better at the flying thing than thin membranes of skin, and so generally when you see a bat that is very big, it's not as big as it looks.  It's usually a strange camera angle.

Bats are good at being lightweight, so while they can have wingspans of over a meter, there is no bat on Earth heavier than 3.5lbs.  The hammer-headed bat tops out at around 1lb, which is even big for a mega-bat, most of which are smaller than that, but look!  Those are all big for bats.  The most common bat in North America, for example, weighs around a third of an ounce, but none of this is the thing that astounds you about the hammer-headed bat, right, like, the thing that you're looking at is the head.  Like, it's lookin' kinda dumb.  

Now, this certainly isn't the only weird looking bat.  Their faces often look pretty silly, but usually that is for better accuracy of their sonar.  Hammer-headed bats, like other mega-bats, mostly eat fruit, which are notoriously sedentary.  They don't have to snag them out of the air like bat-sensing bugs, so mega-bats actually are usually pretty cute.  Not so for this boy!

This weird face exists as far as we can tell for one reason and one reason only: the (?~2:29) is a mating behavior where a bunch of males gather in a central location to display out to females, who then pick the male that they are most interested in.  That area is called the (?~2:40), which yes, in my opinion, would be a very good name for a dating app, thank you for asking.

Hammer-headed bats display not through visual traits, but through noise.  That giant (?~2:49) and the fleshy lips and the split nose all help them make a big, kind of awful noise that female hammer-headed bats, which by the way, don't look nearly as weird as the males, apparently find really sexy, and now because we can, we're all gonna listen to that noise together.

(sexy bat sounds)

Oh.  Great.

As with so many bizarre things in nature, this face that only a nocturnal species could love comes down to sexual selection, and so if I had a chance to re-write that Snopes page, I would add one single sentence.   Yes, they do look terrible, but get this!  That weird face only exists so that they can sound terrible, too.

John, I'll see you on Tuesday.

Bizarre Beasts is a series that I'm doing on vlogbrothers.  I think I only have a couple more of them left, and if you're subscribed to our pin club, you can be expecting to get the hammer-headed bat soon.  I just got my handfish in the mail.  It's really good, I like that one.  If you didn't sign up for the Bizarre Beasts pin club and you want to, it's--you can't.  I'm sorry.  We'll try and figure out something for you in the future.