Syconycteris australissouthern blossom bat

Geographic Range

Syconycteris australis (Southern blossom bat) can be found from the Moluccan Islands of Indonesia to the islands of Salawati, Biak and Yapen and throughout a majority of the island of New Guinea. It can also be found along the eastern coast of Australia, where it ranges from Queensland to New South Wales. ("Common Blossom-bat - Profile", 2005; Helgen, et al., 2011)


Southern blossom bats, unlike most chiropterans, do not roost in a specific centralized location, but instead change roosts daily. They roost individually during the day in the dense foliage of the subcanopy and move to nearby heathlands during the night to feed. Preferred habitat includes tropical moist forests, eucalyptus forests, moss forests, and Melaleuca swamps that are adjacent to heathland-like habitats. Southern blossom bats do not migrate like many other flower bats; instead, they change roosting locations from the rainforest's edge in the winter to the rainforest interior during spring and autumn. It is thought that they do this in order to be closer to their food source during the colder winter months. They can be found from sea level to 3000 m in elevation. ("Common Blossom-bat - Profile", 2005; Helgen, et al., 2011; Law, 1993; Macdonald, 2001)

  • Range elevation
    0 to 3,000 m
    0.00 to ft
  • Average elevation
    1,500 m

Physical Description

Southern blossom bats are the smallest known species of Pteropodidae, ranging in size from 40 to 60 mm long, with a wingspan of 72.4 to 92.7 mm and weighing between 18.9 and 20.5 g. The dorsum is covered in light brown to reddish hair, and the venter is slightly lighter colored than the rest of the body. They also have relatively long, rounded ears with no tragi as well as large, black eyes and no tail. Southern blossom bats exhibit the fox-like face shape that is characteristic of members of the family Pteropodidae. Their long, pointed muzzles house a very long, thin tongue with brush-like projections that allows them to pick up nectar and pollen from the flowers they feed on. They have a basal metabolic rate of 4 cm^3 oxygen/hour. Sexual dimorphism has not been documented in this species. ("Common Blossom-bat - Profile", 2005; Geiser and Coburn, 1999; Law, 1992; Macdonald, 2001)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    18.9 to 20.5 g
    0.67 to 0.72 oz
  • Range length
    40 to 60 mm
    1.57 to 2.36 in
  • Range wingspan
    72.4 to 92.7 mm
    2.85 to 3.65 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    4 cm3.O2/g/hr


Southern blossom bats form small groups for 2 to 4 weeks in early March and October in order to mate. They produce one offspring per mating period for a total of two offspring per year. The mating system is thought to be a form of resource defense polygyny, in which males defend areas with abundant resources that attract females, as opposed to defending the females themselves. This information is based solely on sex ratios at different locations throughout the year, however, and direct observations of their social behavior is needed. (Geiser, et al., 2001; Law, 1996; Nelson, 1964)

Southern blossom bats are polygynous and form small mating aggregations during early March and October. Males and females identify each other based on sight and the scent glands located on their shoulders. Little is known of the mating behavior of southern blossom bats, however, females give birth to one offspring at a time. Male southern blossom bats do not provide any parental care, leaving the female soon after copulation. Males reach sexual maturity by 1 year old and females reach sexual maturity by 6 to 8 months old. Juveniles are weaned by 6 to 8 weeks of age, at which point they are independent and separate from the mother. (Geiser, et al., 2001; Law, 1993; Nelson, 1964)

Southern blossom bats undergo torpor. Pregnant females also undergo torpor and are able to lower their metabolic rate equal to that of non-pregnant bats, but remain in torpor for half the time of their non-pregnant counterparts. (Geiser, et al., 2001)

  • Breeding interval
    Southern blossom bats breed twice a year
  • Breeding season
    Early March and October
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    3.5 to 4 months
  • Average gestation period
    3.6 months
  • Range weaning age
    6 to 8 weeks
  • Range time to independence
    6 to 8 weeks
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    6 to 8 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 years

The parental care of southern blossom bats is provided solely by females, as males leave soon after copulation. Gestation lasts 3.5 to 4 months and during this time the fetus can account for up to 25% of the mother's body weight. After birth, females carry their young on the venter and nurse for 6 to 8 weeks. By the time weaning is complete, young are completely independent. (Geiser, et al., 2001; Law, 1992)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female


Southern blossom bats live 2 to 6 years in captivity, with an average of 5 years. Little is known of their lifespan in the wild, though it is generally thought that members of Syconycteris live longer in the wild than they do in captivity. (Macdonald, 2001; Nelson, 1964)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    2 to 6 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    5 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    2 to 6 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    5 years


Southern blossom bats are solitary and nocturnal. They roost in the forest subcanopy during the day and forage in nearby heathlands and forests during the night. They change roosts daily, but often visit the same feeding patches for multiple days before moving to another location. Flight patterns are less erratic than in chiropterans of similar size, and they are capable of flying slowly and hovering, allowing them to feed on nectar while in flight. Southern blossom bats undergo torpor, a state of decreased physiological activity similar to hibernation, during colder months. Because they roost individually, they cannot huddle for warmth, and because they roost in the subcanopy, they receive little protection from the local climatic conditions. Thus, going into torpor allows them to save energy by lowering their metabolic rate and reducing their core body temperature. (Altringham, 1996; Law, 1993; Leen and Novick, 1969; Mickleburgh and Racey, 1992)

  • Range territory size
    0.12 to 17.96 km^2

Home Range

Evidence from telemetry studies suggests that home range size of southern blossom bats varies by individual, ranging from 0.12 to 17.96 km^2. Often, home ranges include more than one forest fragment. Southern blossom bats usually travel along forest margins, but may fly up to 5.8 km across open ground. (Geiser, et al., 2001; Law and Lean, 1999)

Communication and Perception

Southern blossom bats, similar to other pteropodids, have excellent visual and olfactory perception, which they use to find the flowers on which they feed. Some flower species have likely co-evolved with southern blossom bats and emit a musty "bat odor" and open only during the night. Little is known of auditory communication, as few studies focus on the vocalizations of southern blossom bats. However, they do use chirps to communicate with conspecifics. Southern blossom bats do not use echoloctaion or any other type of vocalization for navigation. Scent glands on their shoulders are used for identifying individuals during mating, and females identify their offspring by their scent. (Allen, 1939; Altringham, 1996; Nelson, 1964)

Food Habits

Southern blossom bats are nectarivores and feed exclusively on pollen and nectar, which makes them unique among pteropodids. While feeding, they use their long, bristled tongue to extract nectar and pollen. Preferred forage includes pollen and nectar from evergreen flowering plants such as Grevillea pteridifolia, though they feed on many species of tropical plants, including bananas. They do not supplement their diets with additional plant materials or insects, as all of their dietary requirements are met by consuming pollen and nectar, including hydration requirements. (Altringham, 1996; Courts, 1998; Geiser and Coburn, 1999; "ARKive - Common blossom bat", 2011)

  • Plant Foods
  • nectar
  • pollen


Major predators of Syconycteris australis include birds of prey and tree snakes. Additionally, foxes and feral cats sometimes prey on Syconycteris australis while they feed on low hanging flowers. More studies are needed to identify the major predators of this species. THeir nocturnal lifestyle likely helps reduce risk of predation. (Altringham, 1996; Helgen, et al., 2011; Law, 1993; Phillips, et al., 2001; "ARKive - Common blossom bat", 2011)

Ecosystem Roles

As strict nectarivores, southern blossom bats are important pollinators. Evidence suggests a coevolutionary relationship between southern blossom bats and some of the plants they feed from. For example, the flowers of some plant species omit a musty "bat odor" and only open during the night. A number of plants are pollinated only by southern blossom bats. Law and Lean (1999) indicated that southern blossom bats carry six times more pollen than birds, but spend considerably less time at individual feeding flowers. In comparison to birds, the quality of pollen (defined by the geographic, and therefore genetic, distance moved) carried by southern blossom bats is much greater, as they are more mobile than birds and visit more fragmented landscapes. Syzygium cormiflorum, Grevillea pteridifolia, and certain Musaceae species depend on southern blossom bats for pollination. (Altringham, 1996; Law and Lean, 1999; Law, 1992)

Although little information is available regarding parasites specific to southern blossom bats, known parasites include Toxocara pteropodis, Cyclopodia albertisii, Meristaspis, and Ixodes holocyclus. (Law and Lean, 1999; Law, 1992)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates
Mutualist Species
  • Syzygium cormiflorum
  • Grevillea pteridifolia
  • Musaceae
Commensal/Parasitic Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Southern blossom bats are very important in the pollination of many wild and agricultural fruits, such as guavas and bananas. Thus, many farmers throughout this species' geographic range depend on southern blossom bats for their financial well-being. In addition, the structure, distribution, and composition of forests throughout the southern blossom bat's geographic range may significantly depend on pollination by species. Southern blossom bats can also be used as an indicator species, as they have few predators and are relatively intolerant of environmental change. (Law and Lean, 1999; Law, 1992)

  • Positive Impacts
  • pollinates crops

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of Syconycteris australis on humans. (Hall and Richards, 2000)

Conservation Status

Southern blossom bats are widely distributed and abundant. As a result, they are classified as a species of "least concern" on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species. Coastal development around Fraser Island, Queensland has lead to locally reduced numbers, and inappropriate fire regimes in local heathland habitats have been noted as potential threats, as they lead to reduced flowering in the plant species on which southern blossom bats feed. (Altringham, 1996; Helgen, et al., 2011; Mickleburgh and Racey, 1992; "ARKive - Common blossom bat", 2011)

Other Comments

Seven subspecies of Syconycteris australis are recognized. (Mickleburgh and Racey, 1992)


Zach Pioch (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, John Berini (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



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

World Map


uses sound to communicate


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.


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.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


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).


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


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species


having more than one female as a mate at one time


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.

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


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


lives alone


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


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.


uses sight to communicate


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


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