Rhinolophus euryaleMediterranean horseshoe bat

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Geographic Range

Mediterranean horseshoe bats occur mostly in Europe, including the Balkans and Mediterranean region. They are also found on the islands of Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica. The northern most range includes Slovakia, northern Italy and southern France. They have also been reported in northern Africa. (Russo, et al., 2002)

Habitat

Mediterranean horseshoe bats inhabit warm, forested regions in foothills and mountains. They favor karst formations with numerous caves located near water sources. They also favor broadleaved woodlands and olive groves. They spend summers roosting in caves and underground shelters. In more northern regions, warm attics are used. (Russo, et al., 2002)

Physical Description

Mediterranean horseshoe bats are medium-sized, weighing betwen 8 and 17.5 g. Total length of these animals is 65 to 88 mm, and wingspan is between 300 and 320 mm. Females are often larger than males. (Schober and Grimmberger, 1997)

The horseshoe and lips of the bat are light brown, and the ears and wing membranes are light gray. The fur of this bat is sparse, becoming light gray toward the base. The back is a gray-brown, with a light reddish or pinkish tint. The underside is gray-white to a yellowish-white. The boundary between dorsal and ventral color is indistinct. Darker hairs may be present around the eyes. (Schober and Grimmberger, 1997)

The wings of the bat are broad (suggesting life in the forest), with the second phalanx of the fourth finger having more than twice the length of the first. When at rest, the third to fifth fingers are bent 180º at the joint between the first and second phalanges. Because of this, these bats cannot be completely wrapped by their wing membranes. (Schober and Grimmberger, 1997)

The species is nasal emitting, with an upper saddle process pointed and slightly curved downward. The lower saddle process is rounded when viewed from below, and is noticably shorter than the upper saddle process. (Schober and Grimmberger, 1997)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range mass
    8 to 17.5 g
    0.28 to 0.62 oz
  • Range length
    65 to 88 mm
    2.56 to 3.46 in
  • Range wingspan
    300 to 320 mm
    11.81 to 12.60 in

Reproduction

Not much detailed information is available regarding mating system of this species. Maternity roosts often contain 50 to 400 females with males often present. (Russo, et al., 2002)

Information on reproduction is sparse. Breeding is thought to occur once per year. Females give birth to one offspring which weighs approximately 4 grams at birth, and is ready to fly in early to mid August. In Bulgaria, young are ready to fly in mid July. (Schober and Grimmberger, 1997)

Within the genus Rhinolophus, some species are known to undergo delayed fertilization. Mating may occur in winter, and gestation, which is usually about 7 weeks, occurs in early spring. Most births in this genus occur in late spring or early Summer. Given that the young are flying in July or August, it is likely that Rhinolophus eurylate is similar. (Nowak, 1999)

In species of Rhinolophus for which data are available, lactation lasts for approximately one month. Sexual maturity is usually reached by two years of age. (Nowak, 1999)

  • Breeding interval
    The animals breed once annually.
  • Breeding season
    The breeding season of this species has not been reported, but is likely to occur in winter or in early spring.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 (high)
  • Average number of offspring
    1
  • Average gestation period
    7 weeks
  • Average weaning age
    1 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2 years

No information about parental care is available, but in general females care for young in bats. Young bats are typically atricial, and in this genus, lactation is thought to last for about one month. The role of males in parental care has not been reported. (Nowak, 1999)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • protecting
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

The lifespan of Mediterranean horseshoe bats is unknown. It is difficult to speculate on what the lifespan may be, as there is great variability within the genus. Some species on the Malay penninsula are reported to live for only about 6 or 7 years. However, one individual of the species Rhinolophus ferrumequinum in France was reported to have lived in excess of 27 years. (Nowak, 1999; Schober and Grimmberger, 1997)

Behavior

Mediterranean horseshoe bats often roost together with other bat species including other horseshoe bats. Winter roosts are located in caves and tunnels with an approximate temperature of 10ºC. These bats hang freely from the ceiling, but, unlike many bats, their wings do not completely cover the body due to the anatomy of the wing. They are often in contact with other individuals. These bats are usually permanent residents, however they may migrate up to 134 km. (Altringham, 1996; Schober and Grimmberger, 1997)

It has been noted that some members of the family may go into a state of torpor as an adaption to low temperatures. Some members of the genus Rhinolophus hibernate. However, it is not known for certain whether R. euryale undergoes such torpor or hibernation. (Altringham, 1996; Schober and Grimmberger, 1997; Altringham, 1996; Schober and Grimmberger, 1997)

Most bats in the genus Rhinolophus are solitary foragers. The bats are typically nocturnal, and use echolocation to find prey items. (Nowak, 1999; Nowak, 1999)

Home Range

Th size of the home range of these animals has not been reported.

Communication and Perception

All members of the family Rhinolophidae emit FM-CF-FM echolocation calls. The bat produces high frequency, highly directional calls in the range of 101 to 108 kHz, this high frequency cannot be heard by tympanate moths, one of their favorite foods. The calls last approximately 20 to 30 ms. However, it should be stressed that this echolocation is used for foraging, not for communicating with conspecifics. (Russo, et al., 2001)

Because these bats are nocturnal and roost in dark caves, it is unlikely that they use a lot of visual signals in their communications with conspecifics. Other members of the genus are reported to use some vocal communication, Because these bats come into frequent contact with one another in roosts, it is likely that there is some tactile communication. Communcation through scent has not been documented, but may occur, as these are mammals. (Nowak, 1999)

Food Habits

Mediterranean horseshoe bats emerge in late twilight to feed on moths and other insects. They hunt at low altitudes on warm slopes and in relatively dense stands of trees or shrubs. The flight of the bat is slow and agile, and they have the ability to hover. (Schober and Grimmberger, 1997)

All members of the family Rhinolophidae use echolocation to find prey items. They are known to emit FM-CF-FM echolocation calls. These bats produce high frequency, highly directional calls in the range of 101 to 108 kHz, a frequency beyond the ability of tympanate moths to detect. The calls last approximately 20 to 30 ms. (Schober and Grimmberger, 1997)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects

Predation

No information on predation is available

Ecosystem Roles

Mediterranean horseshoe bats consume large quantities of moths and other insects. They therefore affect insect communities negatively, but probably have an indirect positive effect on plant communities, by eliminating some herbivorous insects. (Russo, et al., 2001)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Mediterranean horseshoe bats provide insect control within the ecosystem. (Schober and Grimmberger, 1997)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse affects of Mediterranean horseshoe bats on humans.

Conservation Status

Rhinolophus euryale is the rarest of all European rhinolophids, and is classified as "Vulnerable" in the IUCN Red List. Data are scarce on population estimates, however, it is known there was a 70% decline in numbers in France between 1940 and 1980. There was also a serious population decrease in Slovakia. Because of the use of pesticides by humans, many species of insectivorous bats have suffered, and the timing of decline in this species corresponds to the increased use of pesticides after World War II. (Nowak, 1999; Russo, et al., 2002)

Rhinolophus euryale seems particularly sensitive to human disturbance, and because it mainly roosts in underground shelters, including caves, protection of such sites is a key conservation strategy. (Russo, et al., 2002)

Other Comments

Incidents of albinism have been recorded. (Schober and Grimmberger, 1997)

Contributors

Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Paul Scharine (author), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Chris Yahnke (editor, instructor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Glossary

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

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.

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.

echolocation

The process by which an animal locates itself with respect to other animals and objects by emitting sound waves and sensing the pattern of the reflected sound waves.

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.

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

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).

migratory

makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

mountains

This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

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

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

ultrasound

uses sound above the range of human hearing for either navigation or communication or both

visual

uses sight to communicate

viviparous

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

References

Altringham, J. 1996. Bats Biology and Behavior. New York: Oxford University Press.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Russo, D., G. Jones, A. Migliozzi. 2002. Habitat selection by the Mediterranean horseshoe bat, in a rural area of southern Italy and implications for conservation. Biological Conservation, 107 (1): 71-81.

Russo, D., G. Jones, M. Mucedda. 2001. Influence of age, sex and body size on echolocation calls of Mediterranean and Mehely's horseshoe bats. Mammalia, 65 (4): 429-436.

Schober, W., E. Grimmberger. 1997. The Bats of Europe and North America. Neptune City, NJ: TFH Publications.