Large flying foxes inhabit tropical forests and swamps. They occur primarily in secondary forests and use agricultural areas during forging bouts. Populations also occur on oceanic islands. During the day, groups often roost in large trees. Roost sites are often used for many years and trees become stripped of bark and foliage by the bats' sharp claws. Roosting trees are often found in mangrove forests, coconut groves, and mixed fruit orchards. Studies in Subic Bay, Philippines have shown that foraging locations range between 0.4 and 12 km from the roost. They prefer undisturbed forests in lowlands, beaches, and mangroves, for roosting and select against disturbed and agricultural areas. Large flying foxes are commonly found in riparian areas. (Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, 2010; Bates, et al., 2011; Mildenstein, et al., 2005; Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, 2010)
Pelage varies in color and texture with age and sex . Upper dorsal fur is short and stiff, with longer, woolier fur on the venter. Head and upper body are covered with a dark mantle ranging in color from mahogany-red to black, and the venter is often darker than the rest of the body. Its wings have short rounded tips. Except for parts close to the body and the edge of the wing membrane, wing membranes lack fur. Young are born with dark skin and fur but become paler as they develop. Males have thicker and stiffer pelage than females and glandular neck tufts with dark bases. is different from most Pteropus in that it has darker underparts and a dark mantle. For example, P. giganteus and P. lylei have pale underparts that contrast with the darker dorsal pelage. Pelage color occasionally varies as a few specimens have lighter mantles, and some have a gray or silver venter. (Hollister, 1913; Kunz and Jones, 2000; "ARKive Images of Life on Earth", 2011)is one of the largest bats in the world. Forearm length ranges from 180 to 220 mm, mean wingspan is 1.5 m, and body mas ranges from 0.6 to 1.1 kg. It has long pointed ears and a dog-like or fox-like face and head.
Large flying foxes have robust skulls, with a nearly complete orbit and a thick, wide zygomatic arch. The postorbital processes reaches more than halfway to the zygomatic arch. The dental formula is 2/2, 1/1, 3/3, 2/3 for a total of 34 teeth. Upper canines have a prominent anterior groove and a smaller groove on the inner surface. (Hollister, 1913; Kunz and Jones, 2000; "ARKive Images of Life on Earth", 2011)
- Sexual Dimorphism
- male larger
- sexes colored or patterned differently
- Range mass
- 0.6 to 1.1 kg
- 1.32 to 2.42 lb
- Average wingspan
- 1.5 m
- 4.92 ft
- Mating System
Unlike other pteropods, which have fused horns on the baculum, has a saddle-shaped baculum. It ranges from 4.5 to 8.2 mm and is wider than it is long. Females typically give birth to only one offspring per year. Synchronous birthing occurs within each population, and timing depends on local geography and seasonality. In peninsular Malaysia, mating peaks from November to January. In Thailand, birthing peaks during March and April and in the Philippines it peaks during April and May. In captive populations, birthing peaks during May and June. Mean body mass newborns is 133g (20-30% of maternal body mass) and their forearm length is around 79.5 mm. Mothers carry their young during the first few days after parturition, then leave them at the roost during foraging bouts. Young are weaned by 2 to 3 months after birth. (Kunz and Jones, 2000)
- Key Reproductive Features
- seasonal breeding
- gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
- Breeding interval
- once yearly
- Breeding season
- Mating season varies according to local geography and climate
- Range number of offspring
- 1 to 2
- Average number of offspring
- Range gestation period
- 140 to 192 days
- Range weaning age
- 2 to 3 months
- Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
- 2 years
- Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
- 2 years
- Average lifespan
- 15 years
- Average lifespan
- Range lifespan
- 15 to 30 years
- Range lifespan
Large flying foxes are highly social and vocal animals that live in groups sometimes numbering in the thousands. They prefer to roost in tall trees that rise above the forest canopy. Roost sites are often loud and may include several species. Large flying foxes are nocturnal, leaving the roost at around sunset and returning at dawn. Some individuals fly up to 50 km each night to reach their feeding grounds. They often fly the same route to a feeding ground, returning until all resources are exhausted. They form groups ranging from 2 to 50 at feeding grounds. They usually land on the tips of the branches and fall into a position with their head down to feed. (Kunz and Jones, 2000; Oakland Zoo, 2011; Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, 2010)
Large flying foxes are highly territorial and communicate ownership by spreading their wings, growling, or making other vocalizations. The presence of flowers on trees appears to encourage territorial behavior. They are often met with hostile vocalizations and aggressive behavior that promotes spacing between roosting individuals. Large flying foxes rest by hanging upside down with wings wrapped around their bodies. During the warmest periods of the day, they sometimes cool themselves by fanning their wings, licking their bodies, or by panting. Roost activity increases as the day progresses and may include short flights around the roost. (Kunz and Jones, 2000; Oakland Zoo, 2011; Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, 2010)
There is little information available concerning the home range of (Epstein, et al., 2009). Satellite telemetry shows that large adult males are extremely mobile and travel hundreds of kilometers between roosting sites within a single year.
Communication and Perception
Large flying foxes feed on flowers, nectar, and fruit such as bananas and mangos. Common foods also include the pollen and flowers of coconut, durian, and fig trees. When foraging, they slice the rind with their teeth and extract the fruit with their long tongue, which is also used for lapping up nectar. They can carry up to 200 g of food at a time. On a daily basis, large flying foxes can eat half of their body weight in fruit. (Kunz and Jones, 2000; Oakland Zoo, 2011)
- Plant Foods
- Known Predators
- Humans (Homo sapiens)
Flying foxes are important frugivores in tropical forests. They serve as seed dispersers and pollinators of forest trees, including durian, which produce a high-priced fruit that is considered a delicacy in southeast Asia. Members of the genus Pteropus are often the only seed dispersers or pollinators large enough to carry the large fruit they feed upon. They also pollinate canopy trees when searching for nectar. Seed dispersal by large flying foxes is thought to play an important role in the regeneration of cleared forests. They are host to the parasitic nematode Litmosa maki, which inhabits the abdominal cavity. In malaysia, ectoparasites from the families Laelapidae, Nycteribiidae, and Spinturnicidae have also been reported. (Ardea, 2009; Brown, 1997; Mohd-Azlan, et al., 2011; Muscarella and Fleming, 2007)
- Ecosystem Impact
- disperses seeds
- parasitic nematode (Litmosa maki)
- mites (Laelapidae)
- mites (Spinturnicidae)
- bat flies (Nycteribiidae)
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
As a pollinator and seed disperser, Humans hunt for sport, and there is a significant international market, both legal and illegal, for its meat and the various by-products that are used in traditional medicines. For example, its fat is valued in Pakistan, where some believe it helps cure rheumatism, and others claim that its meat can help cure asthma. Shipments of carcasses have been confiscated on numerous occasions in Guam, and trade continues to be monitored. (Feldhamer and Drickamer, 2007; Kunz and Jones, 2000; Struebig, et al., 2007; Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, 2010)plays an important role in maintaining forest structure and composition throughout its geographic range.
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
In some areas, large flying foxes are viewed as agricultural pests, as forage sites often include fruit farms. They are also exceptionally noisy while feeding, and many farmers use flapping or whirling devices and bright lights to deter them. Large flying foxes carry a number of zoonotic diseases such as the Hendra virus and the Nipah virus. Nipah virus first appeared in humans in Malaysia in 1998, followed by cases in Bangladesh and India. Evidence suggests that large flying foxes are reservoirs for a number of different henipaviruses, including Nipah. In particular, it is suspected that this species was the reservoir hosts of the 1998 Nipah outbreak in pigs and humans. The long distance movements of large flying foxes increases its potential to transfer these diseases to other countries in the Australian and Asian regions. (Breed, et al., 2010; Hassan, et al., 2010; Kunz and Jones, 2000)
- Negative Impacts
- carries human disease
- crop pest
- causes or carries domestic animal disease
Synonyms include for Pteropus caninus, Pteropus celaeno, Pteropus edulis, Pteropus funereus, Pteropus javanicus, Pteropus kalou, Pteropus kelaarti, Pteropus kopangi, Pteropus lanensis, Pteropus malaccensis, Pteropus natunae, Pteropus nudus, Pteropus phaiops, Pteropus pluton, Pteropus pteronotus, and Pteropus sumatrensis. ("ARKive Images of Life on Earth", 2011)include
Kelsie Norton (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, John Berini (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.
uses sound to communicate
living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.
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.
- causes or carries domestic animal disease
either directly causes, or indirectly transmits, a disease to a domestic animal
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
to jointly display, usually with sounds, at the same time as two or more other individuals of the same or different species
- dominance hierarchies
ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates
a substance used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease
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
A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
an animal that mainly eats fruit
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).
makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds
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.
active during the night
found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.
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.
Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).
- 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
associates with others of its species; forms social groups.
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.
defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement
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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Kunz, T., D. Jones. 2000. Pteropus vampryrus. Mammalian Species, No. 642: 1-6. Accessed March 30, 2011 at http://www.science.smith.edu/departments/Biology/VHAYSSEN/msi/.
Mildenstein, T., S. Stier, C. Nuevo-Diego, S. Mills. 2005. Habitat selection of endangered and endemic large flying-foxes in Subic Bay, Phillipines. Biological Conservation, 126: 93-102.
Mohd-Azlan, J., A. Zubaid, T. Kunz. 2011. Distribution, relative abundance, and conservation status of the large flying fox, Pteropus vampyrus, in peninsular Malaysia:a preliminary assessment. Acta Chiropterologica, 3(2): 149-162.
Muscarella, R., T. Fleming. 2007. The role of frugivorous bats in tropical forest succession. Biological Reviews, Vol 82, Issue 4: 573-590. Accessed April 16, 2011 at http://apps.isiknowledge.com/full_record.do?product=BIOSIS&search_mode=GeneralSearch&qid=1&SID=2CcoAkk5ePb45E12@GO&page=4&doc=31.
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Struebig, M., M. Harrison, S. Cheyne, S. Limin. 2007. Intensive hunting of large flying foxes Pteropus vampyrus natunae in Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. Oryx, Vol 41, No 3: 390-393.
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