Australian false vampire bat

Macroderma gigas

TAXONOMY

Megaderma gigas Dobson, 1880, Queensland, Australia.

OTHER COMMON NAMES English: Ghost bat.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

One of the largest bats, they have forearms 3.7-4.6 in (9.6-11.8 cm) long, and weigh 2.6-5.0 oz (74-144 g). They have huge ears, large eyes, and prominent nose-leaves, with fur that varies from light brown to almost white (hence the name "ghost bat."

DISTRIBUTION

Today their populations occur in north Queensland, along the north central coast, and in the northwest.

HABITAT

Occur in habitats from arid hillsides, grasslands, and monsoon forest, to savanna woodland and other forests.

BEHAVIOR

Roost in hollows, usually in caves or abandoned mines, sometimes forming colonies of more than 1,000 individuals. Very vocal in their roosts, producing both lower frequency signals audible to humans, and higher frequency echolocation calls.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Consume animals ranging in size from insects such as cockroaches to vertebrates from frogs and geckoes to birds and other species of bats. When hunting, these bats sometimes hang in wait from a branch and attack passing prey, taking it either from the ground or in flight. Their hunting perches can be recognized by distinctive claw marks left on small tree branches.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Mating occurs in May and each female bears a single young in July. Mothers stay with their young for some time, including flying together to forage after the young is large enough. May be promiscuous.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Vulnerable.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Australian false vampire bats have great spiritual significance to Australian aborigines. ♦

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