Ernst Haeckel's Bats (1904)

Plate 67 from Ernst Haeckel’s visually dazzling Kunstformen der Natur, (Art Forms of Nature), published in 1904. With the assistance of Jena artist-lithographer Adolf Giltsch, Haeckel produced one hundred plates depicting the forms of animal life. With this book Haeckel wanted to create an “aesthetics of nature” and to show how the incessant struggle for existence he had learnt from Darwin was in fact producing an endless beauty and variety of forms – Darwin and Humboldt combined together. Focusing mainly on marine animals, the bat is one of the only mammals featured in the book, but the page of surprisingly cute "chiroptera" is certainly one of the book's most striking offerings. The full line up is:

1-2: Brown Long-eared Bat

3: Lesser Long-eared Bat

4: Lesser False Vampire Bat

5: Big-eared Woolly Bat

6-7: Tomes's Sword-nosed Bat

8: Mexican Funnel-eared Bat

9: Antillean Ghost-faced Bat

10: Flower-faced Bat

11: Greater Spear-nosed Bat

12: Thumbless Bat

13: Greater Horseshoe Bat

14: Wrinkle-faced Bat

15: Spectral Bat

In addition to creating beautiful art, Haeckel held and promoted disturbing theories on race and eugenics. You can read more about this darker side to Haeckel in Bernd Brunner's essay "Human Forms in Nature". Also read about Haeckel's role in one of science's great controversies in Nick Hopwood's "Copying Pictures, Evidencing Evolution".

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