Bat, Island Flying Fox


ORDER: Chiroptera

FAMILY: Pteropodidae

GENUS: Pteropus

SPECIES: hypomelanus

DESCRIPTION:
The Island Flying Fox has a wingspan of approximately three and a half to four feet (1.21 m) and weighs about one and one half pounds (750 gm). Pelage is medium long and silky with a dense underfur. Fur on head is typically dark brown, mantle varies in color from pale yellow to dark brown, dorsum and flanks are brownish to reddish brown, chest may be buff to dark brown. As the name suggests, the head resembles that of a small fox. Females have one pair of mammae located in the chest region. Ears are simple with the outer margin forming an unbroken ring. Toes have sharp curved claws. Scent glands produce a strong musky odor.

GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
Maldive Islands (Indian Ocean) , coastal areas and small islands from southern Burma and southern Viet Nam through Malaysia and Indonesia to New Guinea and throughout the Philippines. Forests and swamps.

DIET:
Fruit, flowers, nectar. Principal food is fruit juice, which the bats obtain by squeezing pieces of the fruit pulp in their mouths. They swallow the juice and spit out the pulp and seeds. Fruit bats extract nectar from flowers without damaging them.

LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
Nocturnal with some limited daytime activity. The Island Flying Foxes commonly roost in fronds of coconut palms. They may roost individually or in colonies from ten to several hundred. They disperse nightly from the islands on which they roost to forage on a nearby mainland. They eat and rest in the fruit trees and return to their day roost at dawn. After a period of sparring over territory, they settle down to rest. These congregations are called camps. In summer camps, mating occurs and the young are born and raised. In winter camps, the sexes are segregated. The gestation period is 120 to 180 days after which a single pup of about 74 grams is born. The young remain with the females for three to four months. They are carried for the first few weeks, but subsequently are left in the tree. Sexual maturity is reached at one year. Life span is variously reported to be from twenty to thirty years.

SPECIAL ADAPTATIONS:
Bats are the only mammals that fly and Chiroptera means "hand-wing". The membranes that extend from the sides of the body, legs and tail are extensions of the skin of the back and belly and consist of two layers of skin with no flesh between. The wing membrane is supported by the elongated fingers of the forelimbs. When flying, legs work in unison with the wings, somewhat like swimming through the air. In the flying foxes the first finger as well as the short thumb has a sharp-hooked claw which is used for climbing and clinging to surfaces. Unlike most other warm-blooded animals, bats maintain a warm body temperature only when active. While a bat sleeps, mainly during the day, their body temperature drops to the temperature of the air around them. When exposed to the hot sun during the day, these bats cool themselves by flapping their wings, licking their chest and wings, and panting. In cool weather or during heavy rain, they almost completely wrap themselves with their wings.

INTERPRETIVE INFORMATION:
There are almost 1000 species of bats in the world, forming the second largest order of mammals (after rodents). About 60 of these species fall into the group known as flying foxes. These large fruit eating bats are found in the forests and swamps of Asia and Africa. Although bats are sometimes said to have poor vision, i.e. "Blind as a bat", they actually have eyes comparable to other mammals. Fruit bats have large well-developed eyes and most, including this species, use vision rather than echolocation for navigation during flight. They find their food though smell and sight. Many other bats, especially those who feed on insects, use echolocation to avoid obstacles and find prey while flying in darkness. Bats also use sound to express emotion or for communication. When at rest, bats normally hang head downward. Fruit bats, while scrambling around in trees, may get into a head-upward position. It is easier for the bat to take flight from the head-down position; it just drops and spreads it wings. Flying foxes play an important role in pollination and seed dispersal for a great variety of plants that are useful for lumber, food, medicine and other products. Certain flowers have evolved to take advantage of bat pollination These "bat flowers" are usually white, open at night, strongly scented, and are long and pendulous and located away from foliage. "Bat fruits" are usually drab with a strong distinctive odor; they generally are large with large seeds, are away from foliage and stay on the tree after maturity. Pteropus means "wing-footed" and hypomelanus comes from the Greek words beneath and dark.

OUR ANIMALS:
11 Males. They came here in 2004 from the Lubee Bat Conservation Foundation in Florida.

STATUS IN WILD:
They are threatened by a combination of loss of habitat and local hunting for food, as well as being killed as a pest by fruit growers. Fruit bats being considered a delicacy on Guam and some of the Northern Marianas led to a vast commercial trade. In 1989 all species of Pteropus were placed on Appendix 2 (threatened) of CITES and at least seven on Appendix 1 (endangered). The subspecies P. h. maris of the Maldives is considered endangered due to limited distribution and excessive culling. The commerce in fruit bats continues either illegally or because of inadequate restrictions. Predators other than man are birds of prey, snakes, and other mammals.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  1. Fenton, M. Brock. Bats. 1992. Facts on File Inc., New York, NY.
  2. Internet: www.lubee.com; www.brevardzoo.org
  3. Kunz,Thomas and Jones, Deborah. "Pteropus hypomelanus" in Mammalian Species No. 639. May, 2000. American Society of Mammalogists.
  4. Novak, Ronald. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. Vol. I. Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, pp. 253-269.
  5. Pierson, Rainey. "The Biology of Flying Foxes of the Genus Pteropus: A Review" Biological Report. 90(23).

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