After rodents, they are the most numerous mammals on earth. African bats fall into two major categories: large fruit bats and smaller, insect-eating bats, neither of which attacks people. In addition to a difference in size between the two types, there is a great variation in the extent and details of the wings, which are formed by the naked membrane of skin that extends from the neck to the wrist and between the fingers, and finally to the tail. Wing shapes vary from species to species. Usually, the swift fliers have long, narrow wings while the slow fliers have broad, rounded ones.

The bones of the hand that support the wing membrane are unusually long. The hind legs are rotated 180 degrees at the hip joint, so the knee flexes backward rather than forward. This arrangement does not hamper the bat when it is perched but rather helps it push off from the roost for a quick getaway. They are very agile even on land, scuttling quickly over objects and squeezing their bodies through small openings.

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