Nanonycteris veldkmapiiVeldkamp's bat

Geographic Range

Nanonycteris velkampii is a West African species, found from Guinea to the Central African Republic. (Mickleburgh, et al., 1992; Nowak, 1997)


Nanonycteris veldkmapii is both a forest and savannah species (Mickleburgh et al 1992). It prefers a Guinea type open-woodland zone during the dry season and migrates to savannah zones (as far as the southern Sudanese savannah) for the duration of wet season (Nowak 1997 and Thomas 1983). (Mickleburgh, et al., 1992; Nowak, 1997; Thomas, 1983)

Physical Description

Nanonycteris veldkmapii is in the sub-order Megachiroptera, whose members all lack a tragus, lack nose or facial ornamentation, possess a claw on the second digit of the wing, and have a minimal or absent angular process of the mandible (Myers 1997). This species has a broad, evenly tapered muzzle, which does not extend far from the face. The ears are long and slender, and faintly convex at the front margin. The rear margin of the ears remains straight and minimally angled near their foundation. The dorsal fur is fawny-brown, extending to two-thirds of its forearms and covering its legs. The ventral fur is a lighter, pale gray, and covers up to half of the forearm and onto the neighboring wings (Rosevear 1965). A small patch of white hairs can be found at the base of the ears on both males and females. The males also have tuft of white hair on shoulder pouches (Nowak 1997), which may be displayed for visual and possibly olfactory signals (Marshall and McWilliam 1982). There is an almost undetectable tail, with the uropatagium membrane forming a rather narrow wing to the legs(Rosevear 1965). The dark brown, rounded wings are short and broad (Rosevear 1965), allowing for simple but strong flight (Myers 1999). Marshall and McWilliam have documented the ability of N. veldkmapii to hover (Marshall and McWilliam 1982). The common name of this species, "little flying cow," is related to the calf-like shape of its head (Nowak 1997).

Adults range in mass from 19-33 g, 57-75 mm in length, and have an average wingspan of 178 mm.

Immature bats of this species can be distinguished from adults by the status of fusion of the phalangeal epiphyses, the predominant gray coloring of their fur, the unsuckled nipples in females, and the absence of white shoulder tufts and prominent testes in the males (Marshall and McWilliam 1982). (Marshall and McWilliam, 1982; Myers, 1997; Nowak, 1997; Rosevear, 1965)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male more colorful
  • Range mass
    19 to 33 g
    0.67 to 1.16 oz
  • Range length
    57 to 75 mm
    2.24 to 2.95 in
  • Average wingspan
    178 mm
    7.01 in


Female N. veldkmapii, are assumed to be polyestrous, meaning they ovulate more than once a year. In 1982, Marshall and McWilliam studied megachiropterans on a savanna woodland in Mole National Park in western Africa. They found a high number of immature bats throughout the wet season and postulated a high rate of parturition (births) during the beginning of the rainy season (May-June). Surplus food made available by the onset of the rainy season may be channeled into reproduction (Thomas 1983), thus providing a possible ultimate cause for early wet season reproductive cycles. On Mt. Nimba in Liberia the pattern appears different (Wolton et al. 1982). Males are sexually active between October and December, the breeding season lasts from October to March without any peaks, and births do not occur before mid-November. Males then migrate to the savannah, in order to defend breeding and roosting sites. The females arrive a month later and may be pregnant (Wolton et al 1982). (Marshall and McWilliam, 1982; Thomas, 1983; Wolton, et al., 1982)

  • Breeding interval
    This species may breed several times a year
  • Breeding season
    It's not clear when mating occurs in this species, but reproduction generally follows the rainy season


Nanonycteris veldkmapii is a nocturnal forager (Rosevear 1965). It roosts either alone or in small, widely dispersed groups (Nowak 1997). During the dry season it is found in closed or fringe forests. At the beginning of the rainy season in March, both sexes of N. veldkmapii migrate first to a southern Guinea savannah and then to savannah sites up to 400 km away. The timing of these migrations seems to reflect the shifting patterns of food availability (Thomas 1983).

The wet season provides a surplus in food found in both the forests and savannahs. In fact, the forests should, due to high tree density, standing crop, and annual primary productivity, have a much higher fruit biomass than the savannah. Why, then, would N. veldkmapii migrate from the forests to the savannahs? Thomas (1983), who documented the migrations of N. veldkmapii and two other West African fruit bats, postulated that with the highly productive forest of the wet season comes high competition for food sources. Even though total biomass might decline in the transition from forest zone to savannah, the proportion that remains unexploited by local populations might increase (Thomas 1983). (Nowak, 1997; Rosevear, 1965; Thomas, 1983)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Nanonycteris veldkmapii is a nocturnal nectar feeder, finding its food through sight and olfaction. The peculiar manner in which this species naturally feeds on nectar has been documented and photographed by Baker and Harris in 1959 and later descibed by Rosevear (1962). First, the bat grabs the flowering head with its feet. Then, aided by its long, hooked thumb, it embraces the flower with its wings and laps the nectar up with its tongue. Upon leaving the flower, N. veldkmapii lunges backwards and readies itself for flight by rolling to its side or performing a complete somersault. Throughout this whole process, there is no evidence that any part of the flower is consumed. The visits to each flower last from one to thirty seconds each and continue at long and short intervals throughout much of the night and early morning (Rosevear 1965).

Although nectar is the primary food source for N. veldkmapii (Rosevear 1965), when it was held in captivity, this species will feed on fruit (Marshall and McWilliam 1982). Nanonycteris veldkmapii bites a piece off of the fruit, slowly chews it to release all of the juices, and then drinks the juice while discharging the pulp in the form of a pellet out of the side of the mouth. When they placed a flower in the cage, however, N. veldkmapii actively fed on the nectar (Marshall and McWilliam 1982).

Plants that provide nectar include: Bignoniaceae (Kigelia spp.), Bombacaceae (Adansonia digitata and Ceiba pentandra), Caricaceae (Carica papaya), Chrysobalanaceae (Parinari polyandra), Leguminoceae> (Epurua facata, Macuna flagellipes, Parkia clappertoniana and Parkia roxburghii), Moraceae (Ficus umbelatta), Myrtaceae (Psidium guajava), Proteaceae (Protea ellioti) and Sapotaceae (Vitellaria parkii)(Mickleburgh et al 1992). (Marshall and McWilliam, 1982; Mickleburgh, et al., 1992)

  • Plant Foods
  • fruit
  • nectar

Ecosystem Roles

N. veldkmapii is a noted pollinator of flowers in the genus Parkia (Rosevear 1965) and perhaps other species (see foods eaten). (Rosevear, 1965)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates
Mutualist Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

As a nectar feeder, N. veldkmapii may be responsible for pollination of flowers and fruits.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no adverse effects of N. veldkampii on humans.

Conservation Status

The Guinea type forested zone is an essential habitat for the survival of this species. The continued deforestation of West Africa will have an obvious detrimental effect on N. veldkmapii in the future (Mickleburgh et al 1992).

Other Comments

This species was previously known under the name Nanonycteris veldkampi.


George Hammond (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Robert Adams (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Kate Teeter (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

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.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


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


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds


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.


an animal that mainly eats nectar from flowers


active during the night

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


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


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


Marshall, A., A. McWilliam. 1982. Ecological observations on epimorphorine fruit bats (Megachiroptera) in West African savanna woodland. Journal of Zoology (London), 198: 53-67.

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

Myers, P. 1997. "Order Chiroptera (bats)" (On-line). Accessed 10/09/01 at

Myers, P. 1999. "Pteropodidae" (On-line). Accessed 10/09/01 at

Nowak, R. 1997. "Walker's Mammals of the World: Online 5.1" (On-line). Accessed October 9, 2001 at

Rosevear, D. 1965. The Bats of West Africa. London: British Mus. (Nat. Hist.).

Thomas, D. 1983. The annual migrations of three species of West African fruit bats. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 61/10: 2266-2273.

Wolton, R., P. Arak, H. Godfray, R. Wilson. 1982. Ecological and behavioural studies of the Megachiroptera at Mount Nimba, Liberia, with notes on Microchiroptera. Mammalia, 46(4): 419-448.