Chilonatalus micropusCuban lesser funnel-eared bat

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Geographic Range

Chilonatalus micropus is found on the island of Jamaica in the Greater Antilles, and on Cuba, the nearby isle of Pines, Hispaniola, and Old Providence Island off the east coast of Nicaragua. In Jamaica, these animals have been reported found in Kingston, St. Clair Cave, Monarva Cave, and Windsor Cave. (Norwak, 1999)

Habitat

Chilonatalus micropus lives mainly deep in caves that are high in moisture. These bats have also been found living in dark mines and tunnels, but this is very rare. (Kerridge and Baker, December 29, 1978)

  • Other Habitat Features
  • caves

Physical Description

All natalids have large, funnel-shaped ears, with glandular papillae on the surface of the external ear. They also have a short, triangular tragus, which is quite thick, but they lack a true nose leaf. All species in this family, however, have a hairy protuberance on the tip of the snout that resembles a nose leaf. The eyes are not prominent. The oval nostrils are set close together and are located near the margin of the lip.

One special characteristic of natalids is a peculiar structure on the face or muzzle of adult males. This structure is commonly known as the "natalid organ." It is made up of sensory cells, but it could actually be involved in glandular functions. There is not enough known about this structure to comment upon it further, but it seems to be found solely in the Natalidae.

All funnel-eared bats have long, slender wings and legs that are quite fragile. The thumbs are also very short, but possess their own flight membranes. In addition, the second finger lacks bony phalanges. The tail is about as long as or longer than the legs and is completely enclosed in the tail membrane, the uroplagium.

Chilonatalus micropus has many special characteristics which set this species apart from the others in the family. Chilonatalus micropus is the smallest and most delicate bat in the New World. The lower lip of this species is reflected outward. It also possesses a small, horizontal cutaneous projection on the other side. This structure looks much like a second lower lip.

Chilonatalus micropus has a very dense and long coat. Coat color varies depending on its location on the body. Dorsally, the fur is pale yellowish brown at the hair base with tips that are either reddish or chestnut-brown. Ventrally, the hair is pale yellowish-brown throughout.

The dental formula is (3/3, 1/1, 3/3, 3/3). These bats have a well-developed "W" tooth pattern. The 3rd incisor is separated from the other two. The canine is small but well developed and is noticeably set apart from the other teeth. The premolars are all in close contact with the other teeth and the molars are approximately equal in size and form.

There seems to be no sexual dimorphism. (Kerridge and Baker, December 29, 1978; Silva, 1979)

  • Range mass
    2 to 3 g
    0.07 to 0.11 oz

Reproduction

There is little known about the reproductive habits of C. micropus. One study reported the capture of a single nursing mother in August, and the capture of about 56 females that were not nursing during the months of January, March and December. Nothing is known about the dates of reproduction. (Silva, 1979)

  • Average number of offspring
    1

Behavior

Little is known about the behavior of C. micropus. These bats are found in loose clusters of up to several hundred individuals. These colonies roost on the undersides of low ledges in deep caves. Chilonatalus micropus is an obligate cave dweller that may aestivate (spend its summers in a state of inactivity).

Chilonatalus micropus is also known to be a rather slow flyer. ("Encyclopedia of Mammals", 1985; Kerridge and Baker, December 29, 1978)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

All members of the family Natalidae feed on tiny insects, which they locate by using very high frequency ultra-sounds. These frequencies can get up to 170 kHz, which are emitted through the mouth. ("Encyclopedia of Mammals", 1985)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects

Conservation Status

Because there is so little known about this species, it is important that their habitat not be destroyed so that more research can be done and more information can be found about these small mammals. (Kerridge and Baker, December 29, 1978)

Other Comments

The genus name Natalus is derived form the Latin word meaning "related to one's birth." The name was chosen because the bats of this genus are small and look like newborns even as adults. The species name micropus comes from the Greek word "micros", meaning small, and "pus" meaning foot.

There is scant fossil history of C. micropus. Fossils found in Las Villas from the Pleistocene era suggest that there has been little change in this species since that time.

The Natalidae has had a confusing taxonomic history. It was originally placed in the Phyllostomidae.

Why this species is so uncommon in collections is not really known. There could be a several reasons:

  1. C. micropus may have very narrow ecological requirements.
  2. There has not been much bat collecting on the islands where this species is found.
  3. Because these bats are so small, lightweight and such slow flyers, they hard to trap in mist nets.

(Kerridge and Baker, 1978; Silva, 1979; Ottenwalder and Genoways, 1982)

Contributors

Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

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

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.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

colonial

used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.

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.

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

island endemic

animals that live only on an island or set of islands.

iteroparous

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).

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.

nocturnal

active during the night

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.

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

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

sexual ornamentation

one of the sexes (usually males) has special physical structures used in courting the other sex or fighting the same sex. For example: antlers, elongated tails, special spurs.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

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

viviparous

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

References

1998. Encyclopedia of Mammals. San Diego: United States Academic Press.

1985. Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File Publishing.

"NSRL: Publications: Occasional Papers: OP-171" (On-line). Accessed November 29, 1999 at http://www.nsrl.ttu.edu/opapers/op171.htm.

Buden, D. 1987. A Guide to the Identification of the Bats of the Bahamas. Carib. J. Sci., 23(3-4): 362-364.

Hill, J., J. Smith. 1984. Bats: A Natural History. Cromwell Road, London: British Museum (Natural History).

Kerridge, D., R. Baker. December 29, 1978. Natalus micropus. Mammalian Species, No. 114: 113-114.

McFarlane, D. January 1986. Cave bats in Jamaica. Oryx, Vol.20 No.1: 27-29.

Norwak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore & London: John Hopkins University Press.

Ottenwalder, J., H. Genoways. 1982. Systematic Review of the Antillean Bats of the Natalus Micropus-Complex. Annals of Carnegie Museum, Vol.51: 17-36.

Silva, G. 1979. Los Murcielagos de Cuba. Cuba: Editorial Academia.