Rhinopomatidaemouse-tailed bats

Rhinopomatids are called mouse-tailed or long-tailed bats because of their long, free tail. They are the only microchiropteran bats with tails nearly as long as their head and body. The tail membrane is reduced and does not enclose the tail. These bats are small to medium-sized (head and body length of 5.0 to 9.0 cm). They are typically grey-brown to dark brown on their backs, but may be paler on their bellies.

Long-tailed bats have large, simple, cup-shaped ears joined at the base by a fleshy band across the forehead. There is a small tragus (fleshy ear outgrowth). There is also a fleshy ridge over the slit-like nostrils, but no noseleaf. The slit nostrils can be closed to exclude sand and dust. The sides of the muzzle are swollen. This can be seen on the skull as well as in live specimens. The palatal branch of the premaxillary is reduced and fused in the midline below the nasal opening. The skull lacks postorbital processes, and the auditory bullae are large. The dental formula is 1/2, 1/1, 1/2, 3/3 = 28 and the molars are dilambdodont.

These bats are primarily insectivorous. They may survive the winter, when fewer insects are available, by becoming torpid.

The family contains only 1 genus ( Rhinopoma) with 3 species. This family of bats is known from North and West Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Thailand.

Rhinopomatids live in treeless arid regions and roost in caves, rock clefts, wells, houses, and pyramids. They are gregarious and colonial. One species ( R. microphyllum) has inhabited the Egyptian pyramids for at least 3000 years.

Rhinopomatids have no fossil record. They are sometimes considered to be the most primitive living microchiropterans, because of their free premaxillae, and the structure of their wings and thorax.

Technical characters

Literature and references cited

Feldhamer, G. A., L. C. Drickamer, S. H. Vessey, and J. F. Merritt. 1999. Mammalogy. Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. WCB McGraw-Hill, Boston. xii+563pp.

Fenton, M. B., P. Racey, and J.M. V. Rayner (eds.), 1987. Recent Advances in the Study of Bats. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Hill, J. E. and J. D. Smith, 1992. Bats: A Natural History . University of Texas Press, Austin.

Koopman, K.F. 1984. Bats. Pp. 145-186 in Anderson, S. and J. K. Jones, Jr. (eds). Orders and Families of Recent Mammals of the World. John Wiley and Sons, N.Y. xii+686 pp.

Nowak, Ronald M., 1994. Walker's Bats of the World . Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

Ransome, Roger, 1990. The Natural History of Hibernating Bats . Christopher Helm, London.

Vaughan, T. A., J. M. Ryan, N. J. Czaplewski. 2000. Mammalogy. Fourth Edition. Saunders College Publishing, Philadelphia. vii+565pp.

Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder. 1993. Mammal Species of the World, A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. 2nd edition. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington. xviii+1206 pp.


Laurel Hester (author), Phil Myers (author), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.


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.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


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


uses touch to communicate