Physical characteristics

Adult male natalids have a gland-like structure in the center of the forehead. Though characteristic of the family, the precise function of this free-floating disc is uncertain. The thumb is short and nearly completely enveloped in a skin of the wing (in the closely related family Furipteridae, it is completely enclosed). Possibly as a means of providing extra flexibility in flight or perhaps to avoid wing damage in the cluttered under-story in which natalids usually fly, the third joint of the third finger remains cartilaginous, even in adults. Exceptionally long, the legs can be longer than the head and body combined. The ears are broader than high, and shaped like three-quarters of a funnel. Seeming to dominate the face, they probably serve to focus the very slight sounds of moth flight to the hunting bat. Like Kerivoula, the cone-shaped ears of natalids have small papillae on the inner surface. These may improve auditory sensitivity in some as-yet unknown way. All natalids lack a true nose leaf. However, at the tip of the snout there is a hairy protuberance that resembles a nose leaf.

A funnel-eared bat (Natalus stramineus) roosts in a cave. (Photo by © Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International. Reproduced by permission.)

As befits very small bats, natalids emit very high-pitched calls, up to 170 kHz.

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