Greater bulldog bat

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Noctilio leporinus

TAXONOMY

Noctilio leporinus (Linnaeus, 1758), Suriname. Three subspecies are recognized.

OTHER COMMON NAMES English: Fishing bat, bulldog bat.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Head and body length 4.6-5 in (119-127 mm); forearm length longer than 2.9 in (75 mm); hindfoot length >0.9 in (>25 mm); combined foot and tibia length: >1.9 in (>50 mm); wingspan 19.6 in (500 mm); tail length 0.9-1.1 in (25-28 mm); ear length 1.10-1.16 in (28-29.5 mm); weighing more than 1.7 oz (50 g). Vary in size geographically, with larger individuals in the northern and southern parts of the range, and smaller individuals in the Amazon Basin. Males are larger than females; they can be distinguished from their smaller congeners, lesser bulldog bats, by their larger size and more highly modified feet.

DISTRIBUTION

Found from Sinaloa and Veracruz in Mexico south to northern Argentina. They are also found throughout many of the Antil-lean islands.

HABITAT

Restricted to moist, lowland, and coastal areas within their range, including major river basins, coastal embayments, and lakes.

BEHAVIOR

Colonies of up to several hundred individuals have been found roosting in hollow trees and sea caves. They have been found roosting in association with several other species of bats. They are active throughout the night; groups of five to 15 animals emerge to forage together. Time of roost emergence may be influenced by temperature.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Famous for their fish-eating habits. Aquatic and flying insects also comprise a large portion of the diet and they have been known to eat shrimp and crabs. They have several notable adaptations to their piscivorous lifestyle, including their greatly enlarged feet and claws, elongated calcar, robust and sharp teeth, and specializations of the stomach that allow them to ingest very large prey, including fish up to 4.7 in (120 mm) long. The bats fly low over water bodies while foraging and emit echolocation pulses, which allow them to detect tiny surface disturbances. They then use their long, sharp claws to drag through the water and gaff their prey.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Information on reproduction is mainly available from Central American and Antillean sites and breeding season may vary regionally. Mating seems to coincide with wet seasons, when insects and fish are most abundant; it typically begins in November and December, with births occurring from April through June. A second mating season has been suggested in parts of the range, with mating occurring in the summer and births from October-December. Males and females may contribute to caring for offspring. Young begin to emerge from roosts and fly at about one month of age. A captive lived to 11 years and six months old. This species is probably polygynous.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Currently abundant throughout their range.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Control insect populations and may act as indicator species of water contaminant levels. ♦

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