Musonycteris harrisonibanana bat

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Geographic Range

Musonycteris harrisoni is endemic to the Pacific coast of Mexico. It is restricted to west of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. This species has been found in the Mexican states of Colima, Guerrero, Jalisco, Mexico, and Morelos. The maximum altitude at which M. harrisoni has been found is 1,700m (Tellez and Ortega 1999).

Habitat

Banana bats seem to be restricted to arid thorn and tropical deciduous forest along the coast and in the Balsas River Basin. These habitats have a remarkably dry season from November to May and a marked summer rainy season from July to October. During the dry season the majority of trees lose their leaves. These bats have been captured in banana groves and found roosting in culverts and caves (Tellez and Ortega 1999).

  • Range elevation
    1700 (high) m
    5577.43 (high) ft

Physical Description

Banana bats are medium sized bats with an extremely long rostrum – averaging over one half of the greatest length of the skull (Tellez and Ortega 1999). The rostrum is the longest of any bat in relation to its width (Koopman 1981). One tongue measured 76 mm from the “gape of the jaw to the outstretched tip”. The ears are small and rounded. The uropatagium is complete and encloses a relatively short tail. The general color of the species is grayish-brown. Cheek teeth are small and show a reduction of the lingual elements, which is consistent with the nectarivorous lifestyle of these bats. The tongue lacks lateral grooves (Tellez and Ortega 1999). The tongue has a long, conical ridge of papillae. This adds to the surface area of the tongue and aides in nectar collection (Howell and Hodgkin 1976). The individual hairs of banana bats show highly divergent and divaricate scale placement – they have a “spiny” appearance. This appears to be important for gathering pollen on the face and neck of the bat (Howell and Hodgkin 1976).

Head and body length is 70 to 79 mm, tail length is 8 to 12 mm, and forearm length is 41 to 43 mm.

  • Range length
    70 to 79 mm
    2.76 to 3.11 in

Reproduction

Mating behavior in this species is unknwon.

Information on reproduction in banana bats is limited. Reproductively active males have been captured in spring and summer. Pregnant females have been captured in late summer and fall and a juvenile was captured in August (Tellez and Ortega, 1999).

  • Breeding season
    Unknown.

Although specific information on banana bat parental care is unavailable, they are likely to be similar to other phyllostomid bat species. Young bats are typically cared for by their mothers and weaned within a few weeks of birth. They develop rapidly after birth and become volant within a few weeks.

Lifespan/Longevity

There is no information available on lifespan in this species.

Behavior

This bat species has been poorly studied, little information on behavior is available. They are nocturnal and roost in small groups. They may have to undertake small-scale seasonal migrations in order to find flowering plants. They do not hibernate.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Musonycteris harrisoni are nectarivorous. The first M. harrisoni was found in a banana grove where it was feeding on pollen, nectar, and insects found in the banana flowers (Tellez and Ortega 1999). Pollen is the only reliable source of protein in the bat’s diet. They consume the pollen during grooming. They do not eat the flower’s anther or consume the pollen directly off the anthers (Howell and Hodgkin 1976). Insects are incidentally consumed with nectar.

Trumpet-nosed bats do not hibernate. Because of this, they need to feed on flowers year round. Therefore, it seems unlikely that these bats are rigid specialists for a certain type of flower (Koopman 1981).

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • nectar
  • pollen

Predation

As with other bats, banana bats escape predation by roosting in safe places during the day. At dusk and during the night they are at risk of falling prey to falcons, hawks, and owls. Common predators of bats in roosts are snakes, raccoons, ringtails, and small cats.

Ecosystem Roles

Banana bats are important pollinators of plant species throughout their range.

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Trumpet-nosed bats are important pollinators of bananas and other species of plants.

  • Positive Impacts
  • pollinates crops

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no negative effects of these bats on humans.

Conservation Status

The Mexican Ministry of Ecology considers banana bats a “treatment species” and they are considered vulnerable by the IUCN. These bats are generally rare (Tellez and Ortega 1999).

Other Comments

The word “Musonycteris” comes from the Arabic word for banana (musa) and the Greek word for bat (nycteris). The species is named for Ed N. Harrison, who supported the Mexican fieldwork of W.J. Schladach, one of the first to describe the bat (Tellez and Ortega 1999).

Contributors

Katrina Bergstresser (author), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Chris Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Glossary

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

altricial

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.

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.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body

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.

nectarivore

an animal that mainly eats nectar from flowers

nocturnal

active during the night

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

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

Howell, D., N. Hodgkin. 1976. Feeding Adaptions in the Hairs and Tongues of Nectar-feeding Bats. Journal of Morphology, 148: 329-336.

Koopman, K. 1981. The Distributional Patterns of New World Nectar-feeding Bats. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, 68: 352-369.

Tellez, G., J. Ortega. 1999. Musonycteris harrisoni. Mammalian Species, 622: 1-3.

Wilson, D. 1979. Reproductive Patterns. Pp. 317-378 in R Baker, J Jones, Jr., D Carter, eds. Biology of the Bats of the New World Family Phyllostomatidae - Part III. Special Publications, The Museum, Texas Tech University: