Macroglossus minimuslesser long-tongued fruit bat

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Geographic Range

Macroglossus minimus is distributed throughout the countries of the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, New Guinea, The Solomon Islands, and northern Australia (Gunnell et al., 1996).

Habitat

The long-tongued fruit bat is found from urban coastal areas to denser forested areas. It is located in elevations from sea-level up to 1500 M (Michleburgh et al., 1992).

Physical Description

Macroglossus minimus, also known by the common name the long-tongued fruit bat, is amongst the smallest of the family Pteropodidae (Gunnell et al., 1996) The body length including the head is approximately 60 - 85 mm long (Nowak, 1991). The tail is extremely short, reaching to only about 4 mm at the longest length, and the uropatagium is almost non-existent. The ears are about half of the head length -- approximately 6 mm; Also, the ear does not have a tragus as do many families in the order Chiroptera (Dobson, 1876)

The fur of the long-tongued fruit bat is reddish-brown on the back and is very long compared to other species in Pteropodidae. The fur on the abdomen is shorter than on the back and is paler in color. A dark stripe of brown fur runs bilaterally down the top of the head to the neck. The rostrum is long and narrow and the eyes are large compared to bats in the suborder Microchiroptera (Nowak, 1991).

Sexual dimorphism does not occur in this species as it does in other genera of the same family where males possess a growth of hair tufts below each jaw on each side of the neck and females lack the hair tufts. In macroglossus minimus, both genders lack the hair tufts (Nowak, pg. 83).

  • Range mass
    16 to 20 g
    0.56 to 0.70 oz

Reproduction

Breeding in long-tongued fruit bats occurs about twice a year with a gestation period of about 115 to 125 days. Reproductive maturity in females is achieved at about 10 months after birth (Gunnell et al., 1996). Fertility after birth is restored shortly after weaning and most females are impregnated again at this time. Lactation lasts for about 60 to 70 days, and approximately 70 to 90 days after lactation ends the females become fertile again (Michleburgh et al., 1992).

Females seem to have no particular breeding season during the year. "Females of Macroglossus minimus [were found pregnant] ... in every month of the year" during random collections of the species in the areas of New Guinea and the Solomon Islands (Nowak 1991).

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual

Behavior

Macroglossus minimus is a solitary bat except when a female is caring for her infant. Due to their small size, it is easier for them to hid from possible predators if they remain solitary. Also, if the bat is alone it is less desirable for the predator to attack such a small prey; The reward would not be worth the effort of the energy expended to capture it (Nowak 1991).

Long-tongued fruit bats can be found active during day or night. Although their peak foraging time is dusk, Macroglossus minimus has been captured during all times of any given day. and this pattern is seen during any month of the year. Although numbers of specimens captured lessened during daylight hours, this may be related to the visibility of the mist nets used to capture the bats (Gunnell et al., 1996).

Roosting may also occur during the day or night. Macroglossus minimus roosts under roofs, in rolled leaves either in ground plants or trees, or under tree branches. These roost sites are sometimes in the trees used for foraging. During the roosting time the long-tongued fruit bat hangs upside down with its wings wrapping its body, and "the long axis of the head is held at right angles to the body (most other bats hang with the face pointing directly downwards)," (Yalden and Morris 1975).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Long-tongued fruit bats are appropriately named due to their long tongue for extracting nectar and pollen from flowers. Macroglossus minimus feeds primarily on nectar and pollen, but occasionally also drinks the juices of soft fruit (Nowak, 1991) The flowers it mainly feeds on are from plants of the banana tree (Musaceae), the coconut tree (Cocos nicifera), and mangroves (Sonneratiaceae) (Gunnell et al., 1996).

The long-tongued fruit bat feeds by first landing on a flower (or a nearby flower) and then using its long tongue to extract nectar or pollen from the flower (Michleburgh et al., 1992).

Long-tongued fruit bats, like many other pteropodids, have large eyes, and they orient visually. They do not use echolocation to locate their food source as do families in the suborder Microchiroptera.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Macroglossus minimus "is considered to be a highly efficient vector in pollen transfer for a large number of tree species," (Gunnell et al., 1996). This pollen transfer occurs during normal feeding habits and is responsible for the fertilization of a large number of trees in human-operated banana plantations. Without the long-tongued fruit bat, these trees would not be able to become fertilized naturally and produce as much fruit as they do. This could result in the unemployment of some of the harvest workers of these plantations.

Conservation Status

The long-tongued fruit bat is not threatened due to its widespread distribution and the large number of individuals that exist in the wild. Also, this species can exist in a variety of habitats. However, there must be at least "small area(s) that has been planted with trees that produce nectar or pollen on which it can feed," (Michleburgh et al., 1992).

Other Comments

Population studies through banding specimens of the long-tongued fruit bat and later recapturing them results in only about a 40 to 50 percent recapture rate. These experiments, conducted in the Philippines, do not show whether this pattern is due to a low survivorship rate in adults or a migration to another location (Michleburgh et al., 1991).

Contributors

Michelle Mijal (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Australian

Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

rainforest

rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

tactile

uses touch to communicate

References

Dobson, G. 1876. Monograph of the Asiatic Chiroptera. London: Taylor and Francis.

Gunnell, A., M. Yani, D. Kitchener. 1996. Proceedings of the First International Conference on Eastern Indonesian- Australian Vertebrate Fauna. Perth, Australia: Western Australian Museum.

Michleburgh, S., A. Hutson, P. Racey. 1992. Old World Fruit Bats: An Action Plan for their Conservation. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.

Nowak, R. 1991. Walker's Bats of the World. Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Yalden, D., P. Morris. 1975. The Lives of Bats. New York: The New York Times Book Co..