An Eastern tube-nosed bat in flight. photo: Steve Parish

Mega Bats in Australia— (Flying Foxes)

Our native trees especially the Eucalypts and the Melaleuca save their major nectar flows for 11pm to 2am and tho possums and other evening animals spread this nectar in the local area close to the parent tree—Bats are the only animals to pollinate the forest over long range areas. The Flying Fox hair is especially designed to trap the pollen/nectar for travel. If not for these pollinators up to 25% of our rainforest species of trees could be lost. Remarkably the Koala depends on 50% of its food source trees to be pollinated by bats. We often say “No tree no me” for Koalas. We now can say no me no tree for Flying Foxes.

Where land has been cleared up to 90% of the regrowth can be linked to Bat pollination.

Worldwide more than 450 economically important plants are known to depend on Bats. These include more than 110 used for food and drinks, 72 for medicines, 66 for timber, 29 for cordage, 25 for dyes 19 for tannins and 11 for animal feed.

Wild varieties of many of the world’s most economically valuable crop plants also rely on bats. These include avocados, bananas, breadfruit, dates, figs, peaches, mangoes, cloves, cashews, carob, balsa wood, and durian.

Micro Bats in Australia

There are at least 6 families containing 58 species species of Micro Bats in Australia. These Bats are usually not viewed easily, they live and roost in many, and varied habitats depending on food sources and importantly maternity roost needs. Caves and Mines are a favourite for many of these species yet you could find them in your house, under bird nests, pool umbrellas, under tree bark, hollows in trees and under bridges.

These bats consume great quantities of insects however; some specialists will eat small birds, fish, spiders etc. Bats can be found in every state and territory in Australia. In central and South America, there are vampire bats and bats that feed on a diet of frogs.

Micro Bats worldwide are remarkable in their habitats, food sources and strategies for life. In Texas during the summer, tracking radar can pick up the Mexican free tail bats emerging from their maternity caves to eat the cotton moth feeding on cotton crops in Texas. If not for these bats, the cotton yields could fall by as much as 30%. We have witnessed firsthand fly outs of up to 33 million bats of an evening from the Bracken cave in Texas. Whilst these large fly outs are not as numerous in Australia fly outs of modest sizes, can be seen. If the chance presents itself, it is a sight not to be missed. A personal suggestion is not to look up with your mouth open.

Micro bats have excellent hearing, sense of smell and eyesight. These bats also can eco-locate by using an inbuilt radar system that bounces these sound wave calls at prey and objects, the reception back to the bat account for the unusual facial features and ear shapes from species to species. The human ear however a few can and it is music to the ears of bat researchers cannot hear most of the species calls. There are several systems that researchers use to record and decode the calls to determine the particular species—To make things more difficult the calls can be different depending on types of activities and manoeuvres

In SE Queensland, we have over 30 Micro bat species represented including the Golden Tipped spider eating bat Phoniscus papuensis and the fishing bat Myotis macropus The Australian Bat clinic has unfortunately had to attend to just about all of these species over the past 6 years mostly as a direct result of human intervention.

In Australia, we have 13 species of Megachiroptera, 8 of which are Flying-foxes. In South-east Queensland, we encounter three species of Flying-foxes:

Grey-headed Flying-fox – Pteropus poliocephalus
Black Flying-fox – Pteropus alecto
Little Red Flying-fox – Pteropus scapulatus

grey-headed flying fox black and baby little red
Grey-headed Flying-fox Black Flying-fox & baby Little Red Flying-fox

Occasionally we also encounter the Eastern Tube-nosed Bat (Nyctimene robinsoni) and the Queensland Blossom Bat (Syconycteris australis):

Tube Nose Bat blossom bat
Tube-nosed Bat Blossom Bat –by Les Hall

Flying-foxes are placental mammals. They are warm-blooded, deliver a furred (except for abdomen and under the chin) open-eyed baby and suckle their young. Twins are very rare. The gestation period is approximately 7 months and P.poliocephalus and P.alecto are born from late September through to November. The P.scapulatus are born in May and June.

The baby has ”oversized” feet and an extra little hook on the thumbhook and toenails to aid in clinging to its mother. By also latching on to mother’s teat located in her “wing pit”, the baby is carried very securely for the first several weeks of it’s life.

From birth until 5-6 weeks old, the baby does not have the ability to control its own body temperature. This is called “thermoregulation”. By clinging to its mother and being wrapped in her wings, the baby is kept warm and secure. The mother also keeps her baby scrupulously clean, using her tongue to lick and groom. Flying-Foxes live in large groups called colonies or camps while the Blossom Bats and Tube-nosed Bats are more solitary animals.

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