Artibeus jamaicensisJamaican fruit-eating bat

Geographic Range

The northern range of Artibeus jamaicensis extends into central Mexico and continues south throughout Central America, and into northern South America. In South America, A. jamaicensis lives west of the Andes, in northern Venezuela, northwest Columbia, and western Ecuador. Resident populations have been reported in the lower Florida Keys. The distribution of A. jamaicensis in the Caribbean is continuous throughout and encompasses the Bahamas, Greater and Lesser Antilles, as well as the Netherlands Antilles, and Trinidad and Tobago. The range of A. jamaicensis once was thought to extend south to Amazonian Brazil, Paraguay and Northern Argentina, but mammalogists have recently recognized those populations as separate species, Artibeus obscurus and Artibeus jamaicensis planirostris. ("American leaf-nosed bats (Phyllostomidae)", 2004; Emmons, 1997; Marques-Aguiar, 2007; Miller, et al., 2010; Nowak, 1999; Ortega and Castro-Arellano, 2001; "Jamaican Fruit-Eating Bat (Artibeus jamaicensis)", 2011)


Artibeus jamaicensis is primarily found in mature lowland rainforests, but lives in a variety of habitats including seasonal dry forests, deciduous forests, and human plantations. This species uses an array of different roosts including hollowed trees, dense foliage, caves, and sometimes even buildings. Along with several other species of the family Phyllostomidae, A. jamaicensis modifies large leaves to make "tents" as roosts. They have been found in a wide range of elevations from sea level to 2300 m. ("American leaf-nosed bats (Phyllostomidae)", 2004; Beletsky, 1998; Beletsky, 1999; Emmons, 1997; Miller, et al., 2010; Nowak, 1999; "Jamaican Fruit-Eating Bat (Artibeus jamaicensis)", 2011)

  • Range elevation
    sea level to 2300 m
    to 7545.93 ft
  • Average elevation
    500 m
    1640.42 ft

Physical Description

Artibeus jamaicensis weighs between 40 and 60 g, and reaches 70 to 85 mm in length with a wingspan ranging from 48 to 67 mm wide. It has short fur that is either brownish, grayish or black in color. Hair roots are white giving A. jamaicensis a slightly hoary appearance. Ventral pelage is usually lighter than dorsal pelage and no dorsal line is present. The genus Artibeus is characterized by four white facial stripes, one above and below each eye. These stripes are distinct on A. jamaicensis, but fainter than on other related species. This species lacks an external tail, and the naked uropatagium is a characteristic not present in other members of the genus. Like other phyllostomatids, members of this species have a well-developed noseleaf, which is broad, fleshy, and spear-shaped. Artibeus jamaicensis has large canines relative to other members of the genus, which are used for impaling the hard skinned unripe fruit they eat. Artibeus jamaicensis also has a characteristic V-shaped row of bumps on its chin. Six subspecies of A. jamaicensis are recognized. ("American leaf-nosed bats (Phyllostomidae)", 2004; Beletsky, 1998; Beletsky, 1999; Fleming, 2003; Hall, 1981; Marques-Aguiar, 2007; Nowak, 1999)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    40 to 60 g
    1.41 to 2.11 oz
  • Range length
    70 to 85 mm
    2.76 to 3.35 in
  • Range wingspan
    96 to 150 mm
    3.78 to 5.91 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    0.359 W


Artibeus jamaicensis is polygynous, and individuals males defend harems of 4 to 18 females and their young. Males of this species are known to form stable, sized-based hierarchies. Larger, heavier males successfully defend larger harems, and dominant males remain with their harems for multiple years. However, females frequently move among harems, and solitary females are sometimes incorporated into existing harems. Reproduction is not limited to dominant males as bachelor males occasionally copulate with solitary females. During breeding season, dominant males living in caves or tree hollows attack neighboring “bachelor” male roosts. At night, dominant males defend their roost from rival males. ("Bats", 2001; Emmons, 1997; Kunz, et al., 1983; Nowak, 1999; Ortega and Arita, 1999; "Jamaican Fruit-Eating Bat (Artibeus jamaicensis)", 2011)

The reproductive cycle of Artibeus jamaicensis alternates between periods of normal and delayed development and is best described as seasonal polyestry. In late March or early April, females give birth to a single pup. Immediately following parturition, females enter postpartum estrous and may be pregnant and lactating at the same time. Following a gestation period of no more that 4 months, females give birth to another pup around late July or early August. Again, parturition is followed by a postpartum estrous; however, the resulting blastocyst implants in the uterus and becomes dormant for 2.5 months. In mid-November the blastocyst resumes development, and the pregnant females give birth to a single young in late March or early April. On rare occasions, females give birth to twins. Research suggests that this pattern of delayed development synchronizes the birth of young with the end of the dry season, which allows weaning to occur when large fruits are at peak availability. Acyclic reproductive patterns are seen in some populations in Central Mexico and Columbia. Reproductive cycles are likely moderated by food abundance and the timing of wet and dry seasons. Artibeus jamaicensis can fly by 31 to 51 days after birth and reaches adult size around 80 days old. (Emmons, 1997; Fleming, 1971; Fleming, 2003; Marques-Aguiar, 2007; Merritt, 2010; Nowak, 1999; Ortega and Castro-Arellano, 2001; Vaughn, et al., 2011)

  • Breeding interval
    Jamaican fruit-eating bats breed twice every year.
  • Breeding season
    Copulation occurs 2 to 25 days after the birth of young in March/April and July/August
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    4 to 7 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    8 to 12 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    8 to 12 months

Little is know about parental care in Artibeus jamaicensis. Like all mammals, mothers provision and protect young while carrying them in the womb and continues until weaning. Prior to learning how to fly, pups are carried by their mothers while they forage for food. ("Bats", 2001; Nowak, 1999; Vaughn, et al., 2011; "Jamaican Fruit-Eating Bat (Artibeus jamaicensis)", 2011)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female


Little is known about the lifespan of Jamaican fruit-eating bats. One individual in the wild was recaptured 7 years after it had been tagged. Some sources report a lifespan of up to 9 years in the wild. Captive individuals can live to be more than 10 years old. (Nowak, 1999; "Jamaican Fruit-Eating Bat (Artibeus jamaicensis)", 2011)


Tent construction using the pinnate palms of Scheelea rostrata is a common practice by Artibeus jamaicensis. Other plants species including Geonoma congesta, Bactris wendlandian, and Asterogyne martiana are also used to build tents. Artibeus jamaicensis shows preference for plants with broader leaves, which may serve as better protection against the weather. Tents may also provide additional protection against predators. To construct tents, bats chew along the central vein of the leaves, removing small pieces of tissue along the way. The claws are also used to perforate leaves. These perforations cause the leaves to fold perpendicular to the central vein, resulting in a lanceolate tent. Artibeus jamaicensis is nocturnal and forages during the night. (Morrison, 1978a; Nowak, 1999; "Jamaican Fruit-Eating Bat (Artibeus jamaicensis)", 2011)

Home Range

Although little is know of their actual home range size, Jamaican fruit-eating bats fly up to 8 km each night to forage. Once a fruit is selected, an additional 25 to 200 m is flown to a feeding roost where the fruit is consumed. (Foster and Timm, 1976; Kunz, 1982; Nowak, 1999; Ortega and Castro-Arellano, 2001; "Jamaican Fruit-Eating Bat (Artibeus jamaicensis)", 2011)

Communication and Perception

Jamaican fruit-eating bats use echolocation as their primary means of orientation. Olfaction and sight are also used to detect food. Although many microchiropterans emit sound pulses orally, Artibeus jamaicensis emits sound pulses through its noseleaf while its mouth is closed. One researcher described the noseleaf of Jamaican fruit-eating bats as "an acoustic lens that focuses the outgoing sound into a narrow beam." Jamaican fruit-eating bats are often called "whisper bats" because they emit very low intensity sounds. These sounds provide short range information on the location of food in densely vegetated areas. Pups use rapidly repeated long and short notes (i.e., "double notes") to assist in reuniting with their mothers in densely populated caves. Jamaican Fruit-Eating bats produce warning calls when captured in mist nets, which attract conspecifics as well as additional species. Jamaican fruit-eating bats respond to other species' alarm calls as well. Distress calls also warn conspecifics of approaching predators. ("American leaf-nosed bats (Phyllostomidae)", 2004; "Bats", 2001; Ortega and Castro-Arellano, 2001; Vaughn, et al., 2011)

Food Habits

As its common name suggests, Jamaican fruit-eating bats are frugivores and feed primarily on Ficus figs. They also consume pollen, nectar, flower parts, and insects during the dry season when fruit is less abundant. Other members of Artibeus are known to use fruits such as mangoes, avocados, and bananas. Jamaican fruit-eating bats travel up to 8 km a night to forage. Once they select a fruit, they may fly an additional 25 to 200 meters to find a feeding roost rather than consuming the fruit where it was found. Once at this roost, bats use their robust molars, modified for crushing fruit, to mash up the fruit, which is usually unripe and often hard. They suck out the juices and spit out the leftover pulp with any seeds remaining inside. One research team described the feeding habits of Artibeus as causing "a continuous rain of fruit and bat excrement throughout much of the night and with sunrise came herds of aggressive local pigs to gather the night's fallout of figs." Jamaican fruit-eating bats quickly digests their food. as most of the fruit passes through the digestive system in 15 to 20 minutes. Given the relatively short gut retention time, it is unlikely that digestion is aided by bacteria. It is not uncommon to see multiple individuals feeding at the same Ficus tree. ("American leaf-nosed bats (Phyllostomidae)", 2004; Emmons, 1997; Fleming, 2003; Nowak, 1999; Vaughn, et al., 2011)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • fruit
  • nectar
  • pollen
  • flowers


Jamaican fruit-eating bats are preyed upon by a number of owl species, including barn owls, spectacled owls, mottled owls, and Guatemalan screech owls. Other predators include common opossums, gray four-eyed opossums, boa constrictors, white-nosed coatis, false vampire bats, and Bat Falcons. One week before and after a full moon, Jamaican fruit-eating bats cease feeding activity and return to their day roost while the moon is at its highest peak and cloud cover does not prevent this behavior. When the moon is not full, Jamaican fruit-eating bats forage continuously though the night. Lunar phobia is thought to be an adaption to nocturnal predators that detect prey visually. Because they roost in dark habitats and are nocturnal, their dark coloration helps camouflage them from potential predators. (Beletsky, 1998; Beletsky, 1999; Morrison, 1978a)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Artibeus jamaicensis plays an important role in the dispersal of seeds of many tropical fruits. Additionally, it disperses seeds crucial for secondary and successional growth in areas disturbed by natural disasters, which helps restore forests following disturbance and helps maintain plant species richness. It is possible that some species depend on the uneaten remains of discarded fruit. One research team described the foraging habits of Artibeus as "a continuous rain of fruit and bat excrement throughout much of the night and with sunrise came herds of aggressive local pigs to gather the night's fallout of figs." Because A. jamaicensis sometimes consumes nectar and pollen, it likely helps pollinate many Neotropical plant species. Jamaican fruit-eating bats are host to an array of ectoparasites, including four species of ticks from the families Ixodidae and Argasidae, six species of mites from the families Trombiculidae, Macronyssidae, Gastronyssidae, Spinturnicidae, and Ercynetidae, and four species of batflies from the families Nycteribiidae and Streblidae. Little information is available on endoparasites specific to A. jamaicensis. ("American leaf-nosed bats (Phyllostomidae)", 2004; "Bats", 2001; Emmons, 1997; Merritt, 2010; Morrison, 1978b; Nowak, 1999; "Jamaican Fruit-Eating Bat (Artibeus jamaicensis)", 2011)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds
  • pollinates
Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • hard ticks, Ixodidae
  • soft ticks, Argasidae
  • mites, Trombiculidae
  • mites, Macronyssidae
  • mites, Gastronyssidae
  • mites, Spinturnicidae
  • parasitic wasp, Ercynetidae
  • bat fly, Nycteribiidae
  • bat fly, Streblidae

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The seeds of market fruits sold by humans are dispersed by Artibeus jamicensis. This species is also helps pollinate some economically-important crop plants. Although insects make up only a minor part of their diet, A. jamicensis may help control certain insect pest species. ("American leaf-nosed bats (Phyllostomidae)", 2004)

  • Positive Impacts
  • pollinates crops

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Artibeus jamaicensis is known to occasionally forage on cultivated fruit crops. (Nowak, 1999; Ortega and Castro-Arellano, 2001; "Jamaican Fruit-Eating Bat (Artibeus jamaicensis)", 2011)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

Artibeus jamaicensis is as "least concern" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and has no special status according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). (Miller, et al., 2010; "Jamaican Fruit-Eating Bat (Artibeus jamaicensis)", 2011)


Patrick Morrison (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, John Berini (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


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.

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.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

dominance hierarchies

ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates


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.

embryonic diapause

At about the time a female gives birth (e.g. in most kangaroo species), she also becomes receptive and mates. Embryos produced at this mating develop only as far as a hollow ball of cells (the blastocyst) and then become quiescent, entering a state of suspended animation or embryonic diapause. The hormonal signal (prolactin) which blocks further development of the blastocyst is produced in response to the sucking stimulus from the young in the pouch. When sucking decreases as the young begins to eat other food and to leave the pouch, or if the young is lost from the pouch, the quiescent blastocyst resumes development, the embryo is born, and the cycle begins again. (Macdonald 1984)


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


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).


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


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.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


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


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


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


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


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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