Apr 17

Did you know that April 17th is observed annually as Bat Appreciation Day? Love them or hate them, there are over 1,200 bat species around the world and they play a huge role in the health of our ecosystems. Although scary to some and shrouded in many superstitions, the worlds’ only flying mammals are extremely valuable seed dispensers and pollinators. Without long-nosed bats pollinating the agave plant, tequila would not exist – imagine that! Specialised features such as echolocation and vampire bat saliva are studied regularly by scientists to look for advances in human development.

As a nod to these misunderstood and mysterious creatures, we thought we’d take a look at some of the top bat species on Arkive.

Grey-headed flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)

Recently winning the number 1 spot in our world’s favourite underappreciated species poll, the grey-headed flying fox is one of the largest bats in Australia and has a wingspan exceeding 1.5 metres! This species can be distinguished from other flying foxes – named after their fox-like facial features – as its pelage extends down to its ankles rather than ending at the top of the legs. Feeding mainly on ripe fruit, nectar and pollen, this species is known to travel up to 50 kilometres in pursuit of the best foraging spots.

You looking at me?

Philippine tube-nosed fruit bat (Nyctimene rabori)

The Philippine tube-nosed fruit bat is a very unique species, as it is one of the only striped bat species in the world, and has unusual yellow spots covering its back, ears and wings. Despite its odd colouration and patterning, it is the bizarre tubular nostrils that stick out above the mouth which this species is named after.  The islands on which the Philippine tube-nosed fruit bat lives have been heavily logged, resulting in this species’ population drastically declining.

I’m like, totally camouflaged right now

Banana bat (Musonycteris harrisoni)

The extremely unusual and elongated snout of the banana bat got it a place in our top ten! Endemic to tropical forest habitats in Mexico, this species’ specialised nose and extremely long tongue is perfect for feeding on pollen from long-tubed flowers. The pollen sticks to tiny hairs around the banana bats face and is transferred from flower to flower, making this species one of the most important pollinators within its range.

Check out my snout!

Canut’s horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus canuti)

Named after the horseshoe-shaped fold of skin that forms part of the nose, Canut’s horseshoe bat is endemic to two small Indonesian islands. Using echolocation to hunt for insects at night, its elaborate noseleaf helps it to focus on ultrasonic pulses while its large ears detect any sounds made by its prey.

I’ll grow into my nose eventually, right?

Common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus)

Portrayed as creepy, blood-sucking killers in many horror movies, the common vampire bat has long had a bad reputation! This species uses heat sensors on its nose to locate veins close to the skin of its prey, before making tiny incisions with its sharp teeth. The common vampire bat has a special enzyme in its saliva which stops blood from clotting, allowing it to acquire a larger meal from its prey. Yum!

I only want a little bite!

Griffin’s leaf-nosed bat (Hipposideros griffini)

Only discovered in 2012, Griffin’s leaf-nosed bat has an elaborate noseleaf structure which, unlike other bats who emit calls through their mouths, aids echolocation and helps it to focus calls. Males can be distinguished from females by the presence of a ‘sexual sac’ behind the noseleaf which is enlarged during the breeding season and secretes a waxy substance to attract a partner.

My mom said I’m handsome!

Kitti’s hog-nosed bat (Craseonycteris thonglongyai)

Kitti’s hog-nosed bat not only holds the record for the smallest bat in the world, but it is in fact also the smallest mammal in existence weighing in at just under two grams. This teeny tiny size is the reason for its alternative name – the bumblebee bat. Small populations exist in Myanmar and Thailand but are under threat from tourism and habitat destruction.

Stop calling me small – you’re just really big!

Muscat mouse-tailed bat (Rhinopoma muscatellum)

The common name of the Muscat mouse-tailed bat was given due to its long slender tail which can be as long as the head and body combined. The unusual gliding and fluttering flight pattern of this species gives the impression that it is rising and falling, making it look like a small bird when in flight. The Muscat mouse-tailed bat can be found across the southeastern Arabian Peninsula and south-west Asia.

A rodent? Me? Never!

 

Honduran white bat (Ectophylla alba)

The beautiful white pelage of the Honduran white bat and the bright orange areas on its ears, nose and parts of its legs and wings make this species extremely recognisable. The roosting habits of the Honduran white bat are also particularly intriguing – individuals construct an upside down V-shaped ‘tent’ from the leaves of Heliconia plants to protect themselves from adverse weather and predators. Rarely staying in their tent homes for longer than a day at a time, members of this species are the nomads of the bat world!

Hello my pretties!

Fish eating myotis (Myotis vivesi)

With long narrow wings and large, powerful feet, the fish-eating myotis is easily adapted to take fish and small aquatic creatures from near the waters’ surface. Specialised features such as huge hooked claws mean this species is able to catch around 30 fish each night, even eating them whilst in flight!

My, what big claws you have!

Sadly, 25% of all bat species are threatened with extinction due to climate change, habitat loss, hunting and disease. Hopefully this blog hasn’t made you go batty and if you want to learn more about how you can help save these winged wonders take a look at these interesting websites below:

Discover more bat species on Arkive

Leone Elliott – Arkive Intern

Feb 1

We’ve asked conservation organisations around the world to nominate a species that they believe to be overlooked, underappreciated and unloved, and tell us why they think that they deserve a fair share of the limelight, this Valentine’s Day.

Each nominee’s story is featured on the Arkive blog with information on the species, what makes them so special, the conservation organisation that nominated them and how they are working to save them from extinction.

Click the ‘unloved species’ tag above to see all of the nominations and their blogs.

Once you have perused the blogs you can vote for your favourite to help get them into the top ten unloved species and get them the recognition that they truly deserve! Share your favourite with others using the #LoveSpecies hashtag on Twitter and Facebook and tell them why they should vote for them too. Voting closes on February 14th at 23:59 PST (07:59 GMT).

Join us and our conservation partners in celebrating and raising awareness for some of the world’s most unloved species this Valentine’s Day!

Species: Greater mouse-eared bat

Nominated by: Salamandra

Conservation status: Least Concern

Why do you love it? The Polish Society for Nature Conservation “Salamandra” love the greater mouse-eared bat not only because it is cute (white belly and light cream back) and unusual (as opposed to the other bats, it collects insects from the ground rather than in flight). It is a wild species closely related to humans and its life depends on our care. The greater mouse-eared bat is protected by European law and Natura 2000 sites have been created to protect its habitat. Protection of this species and its habitat also helps to conserve many other bats with similar roost requirements and a variety of other animal and plant species. We believe that the greater mouse-eared bat can be a good “ambassador” of group of animals which are not dangerous but endangered and still disliked by people.

What are the threats to the greater mouse-eared bat? Greater mouse-eared bat is highly dependent on people – its summer roosts are located mostly in human buildings with spacious attics (e.g. churches, schools, palaces). For winter shelter it requires spacious, well-insulated and calm caves and artificial underground areas like fortresses or castle casemates.

Greater mouse-eared bats form usually big colonies, and the extermination of even one of them can have significant impact on the survival of the whole local population. In winter bats are exposed to the disturbance during hibernation and loss of their shelters which are often visited by unauthorised people. Additionally, people who are afraid of bats and don’t understand their importance and will kill them deliberately.

What are you doing to save it? Our most important activities focused on greater mouse-eared bats include:

  1. Monitoring of hibernaculas and the biggest summer colonies of the species in Poland
  2. Conservation activities focused on summer colonies – e.g. providing solutions in the case of human-animal conflict
  3. Designing and setting up big artificial hibernaculum in Poznań city as a replacement for another important underground shelter of this species which has to be lost due to its condition
  4. Participation in appointment, designation and conservation of Natura 2000 sites for the greater mouse-eared bat in Poland
  5. Education and public awareness raising, to improve people’s attitude towards bats, e.g. series of lectures about bats for children, students and other stakeholders and implementation of media campaigns throughout Poland
  6. Cooperation with authorities and lobbying for improvement of nature conservation law, for more efficient conservation of bats and their habitats

Find out more about Salamandra and their conservation work

Discover more vesper bat species on Arkive

 

VOTE NOW!

 

 

Aug 24
Photo of Mauritian flying fox in flight

Mauritian flying fox (Pteropus niger)

Species: Mauritian flying fox (Pteropus niger)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The Mauritian flying fox is named for its fox-like face, but is in fact a large species of fruit bat.

More information:

The only fruit bat to occur on the island of Mauritius, the Mauritian flying fox is a large bat with golden-brown fur. This species has a wingspan of about 80 centimetres, and the long, narrow shape of its wings allows it to travel long distances as it seeks out food in the forest canopy. The Mauritian flying fox feeds mainly on fruit, which it squeezes in its mouth to obtain the juices before spitting out the seeds and pulp. This species roosts in trees, where it gathers in large groups known as ‘camps’. Like other flying foxes, the Mauritian flying fox gives birth to a single young each year. Although this species is found almost entirely on Mauritius, a few individuals have also been reported from nearby Réunion in recent years.

The main threat to the Mauritian flying fox is deforestation. Only around five percent of the original vegetation on Mauritius now remains, and over half the plants the Mauritian flying fox feeds on are introduced species. Despite legal protection, this large bat is hunted for food and sport, and in 2006 the Mauritian government endorsed a culling programme as a result of alleged damage to fruit crops. The Mauritian flying fox occurs in a number of protected areas and is listed on Appendix II of CITES, but illegal hunting is still reported to occur. Recommended conservation measures include research into this bat’s populations, together with habitat restoration, education campaigns and captive breeding. The effects of culling also need to be assessed, as does the effectiveness of netting fruit trees to protect crops. The Mauritian flying fox plays a vital role in pollination and seed dispersal, so conserving this species will also help maintain the health of the island’s remaining forests.

 

Find out more about bat conservation at:

You can also find out more about Mauritius and other Indian Ocean islands on our Indian Ocean islands page and at the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation.

See more images of the Mauritian flying fox on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Aug 30

Have you ever wondered what the smallest creatures roaming our planet are? Let’s meet some very cute, extrordinary miniature creatures with ARKive’s favourite smallest species.

What is this on my finger? 

Photo of minute leaf chameleon

This charming minute leaf chameleon is one of the smallest reptiles in the world. As expected for its tiny size, it consumes minute prey, including small fruit flies, white flies and springtails. If threatened by a predator, this clever little creature will drop to the ground like a piece of dead wood and feign death until the danger has passed. How does a predator even spot such a tiny thing!

This is the perfect little hideout for me!

Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur

Awww now this one is a real cutie! Described as a new species in 2000, the tiny Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur is believed to be the world’s smallest living primate! This nocturnal forager has extremely large, forward-facing eyes dramatically improving its night-vision. Weirdly, during the dry winter months, it undergoes a daily period of torpor, lowering its metabolic rate for a few hours. This causes its body temperature to drop, thereby conserving water and energy. Not just a pretty face that mouse lemur!

Where are you little mites, I’m coming to get you…!

Edmond’s ground beetle photo

Edmond’s ground beetle is just 2mm in length – can you imagine? I challenge anyone to find this beetle, which lives within wet moss on the edge of bogs! It is one of the smallest ground beetles in the UK and believe it or not, it is actually a predator, feeding on mites and springtails. You certainly won’t feel the need to run away from this mini-beast.

I’m not sure if this whole hiding thing is working out for me.

 Denise’s pygmy seahorse photo

This delicate little critter known as Denise’s pygmy seahorse is one of the smallest of all seahorse species, typically measuring less than 2cm in height! It is a master of camouflage, with its yellow colouration exactly matching the stems of its gorgonian sea fan ‘home’. What a dinky sea creature!

Oh no, I’m too high up…my legs are starting to feel like jelly.

Savi’s pygmy shrew photo

The adorable Savi’s pygmy shrew is the smallest land mammal in the world, growing to a maximum size of just 8cm! It has an exceptional metabolism, with a heartbeat of over a thousand beats per minute which means it cannot survive for more than a few hours without food. To satisfy its high energy requirements, this velvety, miniature shrew can consume as much as 1.3 times its body weight in a single day. If only we could eat that much and stay that small!

Put me down…

Hooked thread snake photo

One of the smallest snakes in the world, the hooked thread snake is rarely seen due to the fact that it lives underground and grows to a maximum of 24cm. Owing to its miniature size, extremely slender body, and pink skin; it is often mistaken for an earthworm. I’d rather come across this tiny snake than a king cobra, that’s for sure!

Up a bit, down a bit, left a bit….

Bee humingbird photo

The diminutive bee hummingbird has the incredible accolade of being the smallest living bird in the world, measuring just 6cm in height. Despite its tiny size, it is capable of beating its wings around 80 times a second in a figure-of-eight pattern, giving it the ability to hover and move with amazing agility. Even more astonishingly, the female lays a clutch of 2 tiny eggs, no bigger than 6mm in length. It’s a miracle they don’t get squished beneath her!

Ok this wing stretch exercise is really starting to ache now…

Kitti's hog-nosed bat photo

Kitti’s hog-nosed bat is not only the smallest bat in the world, but also the smallest mammal in existence! Its extinction would not only be the loss of an incredibly unique species, but an entire branch of the evolutionary tree would vanish from our planet. The body of this miniscule bat reaches just 33mm in length. How this researcher managed to catch this little thing is a mystery!

I’m definitely worth more than a pound, even if it doesn’t look like it!

Partula faba photo

This little critter is joint smallest of our top ten smallest species with Edmond’s ground beetle! The 2mm long Partula faba is one of the most endangered of all the tree snails and is currently on the edge of survival. It is Extinct in the Wild due to the introduction of invasive snails in the French Polynesian islands in the 1970s. The last remaining population of these snails can only be found at Bristol Zoo Gardens. Let’s hope they manage to reintroduce these adorable tiny snails into the wild!

Any minute now, I am going to jump right outta here!

Gardiner's tree frog photo

Check out this tiny frog, it’s smaller than a fingernail! The Gardiner’s tree frog is one of the smallest frogs in the world, growing to only 11mm in length! Unlike most frogs, the young do not hatch as tadpoles, but as fully formed small adult frogs. So the babies are even smaller versions of this little guy – how is that even possible?

Can you find any other tiny species on ARKive? Let us know.

Rebecca Sennett, ARKive Researcher

Aug 23

International Bat Night is happening this weekend, an event that hopes to inspire people across Europe to understand more about how bats live and why they are so important to conserve. A series of presentations, exhibitions and bat walks are happening in more than 30 countries, including the UK – check out the bat walk at Harcourt Arboretum in Oxford this Thursday.

To join in the celebrations, we have delved into the ARKive collection to come up with some truly batty facts to get you in the mood for International Bat Night and to hopefully inspire you to take part in an event near you!

Batty Fact No. 1

Vampire bats use infrared sensors to detect veins on their warm-blooded prey.

Common vampire bat photo

Common vampire bat

In a study published in the journal Nature, researchers found that vampire bats have evolved specialised heat-sensitive nerve channels around the nose, allowing the bats to home in on “hot spots” on their prey, where the veins run close to the skin’s surface. In other animals, including humans, these nerve channels are used to detect heat that would be damaging to the body at temperatures above 43ºC. However, in the vampire bat the channels in the nose have evolved to activate at a much cooler 30ºC, allowing the bat to detect the body heat of its prey. Clever stuff!

Batty Fact No. 2

The ‘smallest bat in the world’ prize goes to Kitti’s hog-nosed bat!

Photo of Kitti's hog-nosed bat being held by researcher

Kitti's hog-nosed bat being held by researcher

Kitti’s hog-nosed bat is not only the smallest bat in the world, but also the smallest mammal in existence, weighing a maximum of just 2 grams! It is also the sole living species of the family Craseonycteridae, meaning that its extinction would not only be the loss of an incredibly unique species, but an entire branch of the evolutionary tree would vanish from our planet.

Batty Fact No. 3

Brazilian free-tailed bats form the largest warm-blooded colonies in the world.

Brazilian free-tailed bats emerging at sunset

Brazilian free-tailed bats emerging at sunset

The Brazilian free-tailed bat exhibits some spectacular behaviour, emerging to feed at dusk in huge columns of several million individuals. Their flapping wings create a sound equivalent to a white-water river and their numbers are great enough to be detected by airport and weather radars. Feeding for longer each night than any other bat species, it travels as far as 31 miles from roosts to feeding grounds. The Brazilian free-tailed bats of Texas are estimated to consume from 6,000 to 18,000 metric tons of insects each year, many of which are agricultural pests – so in actual fact, they are doing us a favour!

Batty Fact No.  4

Bat guano is used as a fertiliser!

Brazilian free-tailed bat photo

Despite its name, the largest and most well-known populations of the Brazilian free-tailed bat are found in Mexico and Texas, USA.

When large numbers of bats live together in single caves, such as the Brazilian free-tailed bat, there is a huge build up of guano or bat droppings. This nutrient-rich mixture was once commercially extracted from caves on a large scale, to be sold as fertiliser. In the early 1900s it was the largest mineral export from Texas after oil, and it continues to be sold commercially although to a lesser degree.

Batty Fact No. 5

There are probably more bat species than you think…

Hoary bat

The hoary bat is one of the most wide-ranging bat species in the Americas

Over 1,100 bat species are known in the world which is about one fifth of all mammal species. Bats are widely distributed across the globe, with only the Arctic, Antarctic and some Oceanic islands being without them! The biggest diversity of species is found in the tropics, with about a third of the world’s bat species inhabiting Central and South America.

Batty Fact No. 6

All British bats use ‘echolocation’ to find their prey!

Greater horseshoe bat hunting a moth

Greater horseshoe bat hunting a moth

The greater horseshoe bat is the larger of the two horseshoe bats found in Britain and can live for up to 30 years! They are so-named from the horseshoe shaped nose ‘leaf’, used as part of the bat’s echolocation system. Bats are not blind as was once popularly thought – they have good eyesight but rely on echolocation to navigate and to detect their insect prey. Echolocation allows bats to orient themselves at night; they emit bursts of sound that are of such high frequencies they are beyond the human range of hearing and are called ‘ultrasound’. They then listen to and interpret the echoes bounced back from objects, including prey, around them, allowing them to build up a ‘sound-picture’ of their surroundings.

Batty Fact No. 7

Female bats can recognise the individual call of their pup

Bicoloured leaf-nosed bat

Bicoloured leaf-nosed bat

The bicoloured leaf-nosed bat gives birth to one pup each year, which it must locate in the crowded roost after foraging trips. The mother does this by calling to her pup and listening for its reply. Once nearby, she uses pheromones to identify it. She will suckle it for some weeks before it learns to fly and forage alone.

Batty Fact No. 8

What is a megabat?

Lyle's flying fox with wings outstretched

Lyle's flying fox with wings outstretched

Megabats are in the family Pteropodidae and are often referred to as fruit bats. They have large eyes and often a long muzzle resembling a dog or fox. Unlike British bats, they do not use echolocation to find food, but rely on their vision and sense of smell to find fruits and flowers to feed on. An example of a megabat is Lyle’s flying fox which feeds mainly on ripe fruit and occasionally nectar, pollen and blossom. Its primary sense when foraging is vision and it has well developed teeth which are used to chew fruit while spitting out most of the seeds and pulp. Unlike other bat families, fruit bats do not hibernate. Instead, Lyle’s flying fox produces heat by shivering, which keeps its body temperature between 33 and 37 ºC.

Batty Fact No. 9

Bats have evolved to live in toxic caves!

Schreiber's long-fingered bat colony roosting

Schreiber's long-fingered bat colony roosting

Bat caves are widely known to contain noxious gases, but this is actually a result of carpet beetles (Dermestidae) that feed on bat guano and fallen bats. These beetles multiply so rapidly as a result of such a constant food supply that the whole floor of a cave may be ‘carpeted’ with them. They produce waste that combines with water vapour to make ammonium hydroxide which is poisonous to most animals. However, bats have adapted to this potent atmosphere by lowering their metabolic rate, which causes the level of carbon dioxide dissolved in their blood to rise, thus neutralising the ammonia.

Batty Fact No. 10

A deadly fungus is threatening bats in North America

Indiana bat

The Indiana bat is found in the Midwest and eastern United States

North America’s bats are dying in record numbers from white-nose syndrome, a deadly fungus which is spreading across the United States and into Canada. First identified in 2006, white-nose syndrome is a fatal disease which infects the skin of hibernating bats, turning their snout frosty white. It is unclear exactly how the disease kills the bats, but it is thought to affect their ability to hibernate, causing infected bats to use up their fat reserves. The disease has already killed over a million bats of at least six different species, including the Indiana bat, little brown myotis, gray myotis and the cave bat. Unfortunately scientists still know very little about this worrying disease, so we can only hope they start to find the answers soon!

Hopefully this blog has made you go batty about bats, so if you want to learn more and find out about bat events in the UK, take a look at the Bat Conservation Trust.  And if it’s a rainy day and you are feeling creative, have a go at making ARKive’s very own vampire bat mask!

Rebecca Sennett,  ARKive Media Researcher

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