Brachyphylla cavernarumAntillean fruit-eating bat

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Geographic Range

Brachyphylla cavernarum is found on Puerto Rico and throughout the Lesser Antilles south to St. Vincent and Barbados (Nowak, 1994).

Habitat

B. cavernarum roost in caves in Puerto Rico and other Caribbean Islands. The name contains the word "caverna", referring to the caves in which they live. They have also been found roosting in buildings and other man-made structures (Allen, 1939). B. cavernarum emerge in the evening to forage in forested tropical habitats.

Physical Description

On average, B. cavernarum ranges from 65-118 mm in length, with a forearm length of 51-69 mm. The upper parts are ivory yellow in color with hairs that are tipped with sepia. Patches on the shoulders, neck and sides are paler and the underside is brown.

The muzzle is conical shaped and the lower lip has a V-shaped groove that is edged by tubercles. The nose leaf is vestigial, and the ears are small and separate. The tail is vestigial and concealed in the base of the interfemoral membrane, which is well developed. The molar teeth are broad and well ridged (Nowak, 1994).

  • Average mass
    45 g
    1.59 oz

Reproduction

Brachyphylla cavernarum reproduces sexually. Births occur most often during a three week period in late May and early June. The colonies during this time consist mostly of females with one offspring. There are very few males or non-reproductively active females found in maternity colonies (Allen, 1939).

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

Behavior

B. cavernarum are colonial, roosting in groups in appropriate caves. They are aggressive amongst themselves, they may bite and scratch at one another, especially while eating (Nowak, 1994).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Brachyphylla cavernarum is opportunistic in feeding habits, consuming fruit, pollen, flowers, nectar and insects. They are considered primarily nectarivores (Nowak, 1994).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

No specific benefits of B. cavernarum have been identified, although it is quite likely that they are responsible for the pollination of tropical plants, especially fruiting trees (Nowak, 1994). Their guano can also be harvested to be used as fertilizer.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

It is not likely that these bats significantly impact humans negatively, though they may be accused of damaging fruit crops (Nowak, 1994).

Conservation Status

Brachyphylla cavernarum is not currently considered at risk of becoming endangered although habitat modification, cave disturbance, and extermination by humans may pose significant threats to population status.

Other Comments

In 1956, a colony of 2000 B. cavernarum were gassed in the ruins of a sugar factory in St. Croix. They were thought to be Artibeus jamaicensis, a species that is harmful to fruit. When 370 of this colony were sexed, 276 were female amd 63 were male (Walker's Bats 1994).

Contributors

Marnie Mietzel (author), University of California, Irvine, Rudi Berkelhamer (editor), University of California, Irvine.

Glossary

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

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.

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.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

sexual

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

tactile

uses touch to communicate

References

Allen, G. 1939. Bats. New York: Dover Publications.

Jones, J. 1979. Notes on a Collection of Bats from Montserrat. Texas Technical University: Lubbock:Museum.

Nowak, R. 1994. Walker's Bats of the World. Baltimore: John Hopkins University.

Slaughter, B., D. Walton. 1970. About Bats; A Chiropteran Biology Symposium. Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press.