PITTSFIELD -- For those who recall the scene in the movie "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" in which Indy and his party are chased by giant vampire bats, bat expert Robert Mies had a disappointing revelation Sunday.
"Those were actually fruit bats," he said. "But obviously, Indiana Jones would not be running away from fruit bats, so they changed it in the movie."
Mies, the executive director of the Organization for Bat Conservation, spoke about bats, bat preservation and bat myths and facts to a packed house at the Berkshire Museum on Sunday.
His lecture was aimed, at least in part, toward the younger members of the audience, and he patiently answered questions throughout the hourlong presentation. It was associated with "Bats: Creatures of the Night," an exhibition at the museum through May 19.
In addition to a lecture and video presentation, Mies also brought with him several live animals, including a big brown bat, a flying fox bat and a golden bat. The latter is the largest bat in the world, with a wingspan of up to six feet.
Mies' specimen was about half that size, but it was an imposing-looking animal nonetheless.
His talk was peppered with interesting facts: Vampire bats do not and could not live in the United States, as they prefer much warmer climes, for example.
In addition, he said, they do not drink the blood of humans. Usually vampire bats attach themselves to cows and sip about a teaspoonful of blood.
He added that vampire bats have the largest brains of any member of the 1,200 bat species in the world.
"They have, by far, the most complicated social structure," he said. Mies added that vampire bats take care of elderly members of their community, and also care for young bats that are orphaned.
Mies has been studying bats for about 25 years. The author-scientist-lecturer has appeared on a number of television shows, including "Late Night With Conan O'Brien," "The Ellen Degeneres Show" and "The Martha Stewart Show."
His essential message is to urge the preservation of bats, animals that are very beneficial to the world ecology.
He spoke briefly about white nose syndrome, a fungus that attacks mostly cave-dwelling bats in hibernation. The fungus does nothing more than wake bats up, he said. The problem is, he said, that hibernating bats who are awakened during the winter months starve to death.
The hit of the afternoon was the golden bat, or the Malaysian Flying Fox. When Mies brought the bat out of its covered cage, it obligingly flapped its large wings for the audience.
"Ah, you can tell she's done a lot of shows with me," said Mies. "She knows the drill."
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