Reproductive biology

This subfamily of bats generally begins mating in the fall. Females store sperm in the reproductive tract after mating and during hibernation and then ovulate in the spring. In some species,

A harlequin bat (Scotomanes ornatus) feeds on an insect. (Photo by Harald Schutz. Reproduced by permission.)

such as the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), mating also occurs in the spring. Gestation averages about two months, with altricial young typically born in late spring or early summer. Litter size is commonly one or two pups, although some species produce more. During birth, most females turn right side up and catch the infant in the tail membrane. Hoary bats and red bats have four teats, and occasionally raise four pups. On average, females lactate for one to two months. During the same period, the young learn to fly from their mothers just three weeks after birth on average and begin to forage on their own. The young may become independent during the first year, or spend the winter with the family unit. They are often left in roosts with hundreds of other bats. Females of many species become sexually mature the first year, while males typically mature the following year. Compared to mammals of a similar size, bats can live a very long time. They average 10 years or so but records of bats living 15 years and longer under natural conditions are not uncommon and there is one record of a little brown bat surviving for at least 32 years in the wild.

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