Pteropus conspicillatusspectacled flying fox

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Geographic Range

The range of Pteropus conspicillatus comprises Northeast Queensland, Australia above 19 degrees South; the Halmahera Islands; and New Guinea and adjacent islands.

(Martin, 1995)

Habitat

Pteropus conspicillatus occupies primary and secondary growth tropical rainforest. Roosting generally occurs in dead trees or trees stripped of their foliage.

(Richards, 1995)

Physical Description

This species is sexually dimorphic in size.

Females weigh 510-665 g, while males weigh 950-100 g.

Forearm length is 157-181 mm and head and body length is 220-240mm.

Pteropus conspicillatus is black with a yellow mantle. The fur surrounding the eyes is yellow-green, giving the appearance of spectacles.

(Flannery, 1995; Andersen, 1912; Chambers, 1998)

  • Range mass
    510 to 1000 g
    17.97 to 35.24 oz

Reproduction

Female P. conspicillatus reach sexual maturity at two years of age. Copulation occurs between March and May, followed by a 7-month gestation period. Generally, females give birth to one young per year. Young bats are weaned after four months.

(Chambers, 1998; Martin et al. 1995).

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Average number of offspring
    1
    AnAge
  • Average gestation period
    180 days
    AnAge

Behavior

REPRODUCTIVE BEHAVIOR: Members of Pteropus conspicillatus roost communally. The sexual composition of the roost changes depending on the season. Following copulation, flocks segregate by gender; throughout gestation, males and females roost separately and move independently over different ranges. Females arrive at traditional breeding spots to give birth. Males arrive soon thereafter and establish territories around females. Males and females form monogamous seasonal pair bonds if the female bears a young that year; if she does not bear a young, males are polygynous. Males display antagonistic behavior towards one another during the establishment of territories.

SEASONAL MIGRATION: Atherton Tableland colonies leave their roost sites from May through August, which are the months of greatest rainfall and lowest fruit abundance; often these colonies relocate to the warmer, lower-elevation coastal regions of Innisfail and Tully where fruit availability is less dependent on season. Because they are not forced to relocate in search of food, coastal colonies occupy roost yearround.

FEEDING BEHAVIOR: Early in the evening, hundreds of P. conspicillatus leave their roosting sites and congregate on fruiting trees. Individuals who arrive early in the evening ("residents") will establish ephemeral feeding territories and quickly force out individuals who arrive later ("raiders"). This "raiders vs. residents" model of nocturnal territorial behavior results in long-distance dispersal of fruits, as "raiders" tend to obtain a fruit or two before being driven off in search of a new feeding site. Bats drink by skimming over the surface of water during flight; they have been observed to drink both fresh and sea water in this way.

PREDATORS: Natural predators include the carpet python and the white-breasted sea eagle. Occasionally crocodiles have been seen eating bats as they skim the water surface while drinking. Pteropus conspicillatus is also eaten by humans.

LIFE SPAN: Pteropus conspicillatus has been kept in captivity for 17 years.

(Hall and Richards, 1991; Eby, 1991b; Tracey, 1982; Richards, 1990b, c; "Friends of Far North Flying Foxes," 1995; Chambers, 1998)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Pteropus conspicillatus is a frugivore specialist (sensu Richards, 1995), meaning >90% of its diet consists of the fruits of forest trees and palms. This species locates its food visually; thus, fruits pollinated by P. conspicillatus are light-colored and stand out against the dark upper rainforest canopy. Common fruits eaten include citrus, mango, Northern Bloomwood, and Apple Box. In addition, Pteropus conspicillatus raids orchards.

(Richards, 1995; Chambers, 1998)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Pteropus conspicillatus is an important disperser of many rainforest species. Plants that are adapted to bat dispersal tend to have light-colored fruits, in contrast to the brightly-colored fruits of species adapted to avian dispersal and pollination. As a result, P. conspicillatus is an integral part of the rainforest ecosystem. Tourist visits to the tropical forest in Far North Queensland are economically important to the region.

In addition, P. conspicillatus is eaten both by aboriginal and non-aboriginal Australians. The growth and harvest of these animals as a food source has been proposed as an economically profitable and ecologically sustainable practice.

(Mickleburgh et al, 1992; Tideman, 1998; Richards, 1995)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Flying foxes cause an estimated $20 in damage to fruit crops annually in Australia; the proportion of this damage inflicted by P. conspicillatus is not known. In addition, P. conspicillatus and other species of flying foxes have caused power outages by "roosting" on electrical wires.

(Mickleburgh et al, 1992; Tideman, 1998)

Conservation Status

The "vulnerable" status is based on a listing by the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage for the Queensland Nature Conservation Act (QDEH 1994). QDEH only considers a species' status within Queensland, so a species that is stable or common

elsewhere in Australia may still be on the Queensland listing.

However, P. conspicillatus is fairly common throughout its limited range.

Due to habitat modification, P. conspicillatus is now feeding closer to the ground within reach of a paralysis tick; the tick causes deaths within the colonies, particularly of young bats.

(Cyplus On-Line--Cape York Peninsula Land Use Strategy; Chambers, 1998; Richards and Hall, 1998)

Contributors

Rachel Mueller (author), University of California, Berkeley, James Patton (editor), University of California, Berkeley.

Glossary

Australian

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

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.

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.

sexual

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

tactile

uses touch to communicate

References

28 January, 1999. "CYPLUS (Cape York Peninsula Land Use Strategy) On-Line" (On-line). Accessed 29 November, 1999 at http://www.erin.gov.au/states/cyp_on_l/home.html.

Allen, G. 1939. Bats. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Andersen, K. 1912. Catalogue of the Chiroptera in the Collection of the British Museum. London: Taylor and Francis.

Chambers, J. 1998. "Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodge" (On-line). Accessed November 29, 1999 at http://www.rainforest-australia.com/flying.htm.

Macdonald, D. 1995. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Spain: Fournier a Graficas.

Melissa Jeffress, 1995. "Friends of the Far North Flying Foxes" (On-line). Accessed 29 November, 1999 at http://www.bushnet.qld.edu.au/~melissa/ffnff/barbwire.htm.

Mickleburgh, S., A. Hutson, P. Racey. 1992. Old World Fruit Bats--An Action Plan for their Conservation. Gland, Switzerland: International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

Rainey, W., E. Pierson, T. Elmqvist, P. Cox. 1995. The role of flying foxes (Pteropodidae) in oceanic island ecosystems of the Pacific. Pp. 47-59 in P Racey, S Swift, eds. Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour of Bats. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Richards, G. 1995. A review of ecological interactions of fruit bats in Australian ecosystems. Pp. 79-92 in P Racey, S Swift, eds. Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour of Bats. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Richards, G., L. Hall. 1998. Conservation Biology of Australian Bats--Are Recent Advances Solving Our Problems?. Pp. 271-281 in T Kunz, P Racey, eds. Bat Biology and Conservation. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Tidemann, C. 6 February, 1998. "BatAtlas" (On-line). Accessed 24 November, 1999 at http://online.anu.edu.au/srmes/wildlife/batatlas.html.

Wimsatt, W. 1977. Biology of Bats Volume III. New York, San Francisco, London: Academic Press.