Macroglossus sobrinusgreater long-tongued fruit bat

Geographic Range

Macroglossus sobrinus is found in the southerneastern Palearctic and throughout the Oriental region along with its sister taxon Macroglossus minimus. Populations can be found in India, Myanmar, Thailand, Sumatra and Java, as well as the islands of Sipora, Sibnerut, Mentawei, Nias, and Krakatoa. (Bates and Harrison, 1997; Wilson and Reeder, 1993)


In Malaysia, greater long-tongued fruit bats occupy a variety of habitats, including mangrove swamps, montane forests, and lowland forests. When range overlaps occur between Macroglossus sobrinus and Macroglossus minimus, it appears that M. minimus is restricted to coastal mangrove swamps while M. sobrinus is found in montane and lowland forests. A separate study in Thailand found the species in evergreen forests below 1918 m, where pollen is available year round. (Bates and Harrison, 1997; Lekagul and McNeely, 1988)

  • Range elevation
    0 to 1918 m
    0.00 to 6292.65 ft

Physical Description

Greater long-tongued fruit bats have slender, delicate skulls with long rostra. Length of skull is at least 30 mm. The skull has a low occipital crest, a palate ending beyond the last molar, and weakly developed postorbital processes. The braincase is deflected downward. Males have larger skulls than females. The mandible has low processes and is long and slender with a groove for the tongue at the front. The highly protrusible tongue has a feathery tip made of filiform papillae and is used in feeding on pollen. (Bates and Harrison, 1997; Lekagul and McNeely, 1988)

Greater long-tongued fruit bats have reduced dentition: cheek teeth are narrow and low-crowned. All teeth are well spaced linearly along the jaw. The incisor tooth row is elliptical with a large gap between both the upper and lower incisors through which the tongue protrudes. The gap between the lower incisors is larger relative to the upper gap. The incisors are forward-sloping and small, and the canines are short and sharp. (Bates and Harrison, 1997; Lekagul and McNeely, 1988)

The long pelage of Macroglossus sobrinus lacks markings. It is soft, fine, and light reddish-brown, with the chest colored lighter than the head. On the dorsal surface, the pelage is uniformly clay-brown. Hairs are present the inner wing membranes, forearms, and upper surface of the tibiae. Members of this species exhibit no sexual dimorphism in fur color. The ears are medium-sized with small antitragal lobes. Both ear and wing skin is dark brown. Short hairs thickly cover the upper and lower surfaces of the interfemoral membrane. These bats lack an external tail and have reduced calcars. (Bates and Harrison, 1997; Lekagul and McNeely, 1988)

Basal metabolic rate has not been documented, but in their close relative Macroglossus minimus, it falls around 0.88 and 1.48 cm^3 of oxygen/g/hr for lower range bats and highland bats, respectively. Macroglossus sobrinus closely resemble Macroglossus minimus, but the paler under parts and longer muzzle are distinguishing characteristics of the former species. (Bates and Harrison, 1997; Bonaccorso and McNab, 1997; Lekagul and McNeely, 1988)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    18.5 to 23 g
    0.65 to 0.81 oz
  • Range length
    78 to 89 mm
    3.07 to 3.50 in
  • Average length
    82.5 mm
    3.25 in
  • Range wingspan
    331 to 336 mm
    13.03 to 13.23 in
  • Average wingspan
    330 mm
    12.99 in


Little or no information exists on the mating systems of the species. However, male Macroglossus sobrinus have smaller testes relative to other megachiropteran bats. Across species, testes size has a positive relationship with body size, but also correlates positively to group size, suggesting that members of this species do not live in large groups. Lower intraspecific sexual competition resulting from small or no group-living may be the cause of their reduced testes. (Hosken, 1998)

Greater long-tongued fruit bats probably breed year round. Other information on the reproduction of Macroglossus sobrinus is either limited or not available. The closely related Macroglossus minimus is better known. Gestation time of that species in Malaysia ranges from 110 to 130 days, followed by a lactation period of 60 to 70 days. On average, the length between pregnancies ranges from 140 to 160 days, so that Macroglossus minimus likely produces 2 to 2.5 offspring per year. Like most other bats, they give birth to a single young. The degree of seasonality present in reproduction of M. minimus varies with location. For example, reproduction on the island of Maripipi was not seasonal, while 9 km away on Biliran reproduction was more synchronous. (Bates and Harrison, 1997; Lekagul and McNeely, 1988)

  • Breeding interval
    Breeding interval is not known.
  • Breeding season
    Greater long-tongued fruit bats may breed throughout the year.
  • Average number of offspring

Like all mammals, female greater long-tongued fruit bats invest heavily in young through gestation and lactation. Mothers sometimes forage with their young as well, perhaps indicating a learning period.

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
  • post-independence association with parents


The estimated lifespan for Macroglossus sobrinus is 4 to 6 years. The species has not been bred in captivity. ("Status of South Asian Chiroptera", 2002)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    4 to 6 years


Greater long-tongued fruit bats typically forage alone, with pairs found rarely. Individuals tend to roost alone, although small groups are also found. In Malaysia, these groups ranged from 5 to 10 individuals, most commonly found in palm trees, roofs, and banana plants. Macroglossus sobrinus, along with Macroglossus minimus, are responsible for the first peak feeding activity by Chiroptera each night. (Bates and Harrison, 1997; Gould, 1978)

Information on the behavior of Macroglossus sobrinus is scarce, but more research has been done on the behavior of its close relative, Macroglossus minimus. During the day, when inactive, Macroglossus minimus of Papua New Guinea roost individually. They have home ranges of around 5.8 hectare with very little overlap. This, along with prominent sternal scent glands, suggests territoriality, although this has not been definitively shown. In addition, Macroglossus minimus engages in “probing forays," potentially to scout new habitat. When temperatures reach 11-29 degrees Celsius, Macroglossus minimus enter a torpid state, maintaining a body temperature of 2-5 degrees Celsius above the ambient temperature. (Bonaccorso and McNab, 1997; Winkelmann, et al., 2003)

  • Range territory size
    1 to 2 km^2

Home Range

Home ranges are estimated to be around 1 to 2 km, although home range may be smaller in areas with higher densities of banana plants. (Bates and Harrison, 1997)

Communication and Perception

Like most members of Pteropodidae, greater long-tongued fruit bats do not use echolocation. These bats emit audible calls of less than 9 kHz with a duration of about 15 milliseconds and inter-call intervals around 128 milliseconds. Macroglossus sobrinus occasionally emits double pulses or clicks. The purpose of these double pulses is not yet known. In stressful disturbance situations, these bats emit harsh broadband signals as distress calls. The call is a large series of clicks with duration greater than 100 milliseconds. (Funakoshi, et al., 1995)

Food Habits

The diet of the greater long-tongued fruit bats varies among localities, but it appears to consist primarily of pollen and nectar, although soft fruit may be taken as well. In Malaysia, Macroglossus sobrinus was found to feed on the pollen and nectar of three species of wild banana, Dubanga grandiflora flowers, and soft fruit. Start (1974) estimated that an adult Macroglossus sobrinus could survive solely off two to three wild banana plants; due to the flowering habits of the banana, food would be available year-long. Generally, Macroglossus sobrinus is considered a banana specialist, although secondary food sources are also used. (Bates and Harrison, 1997; Lekagul and McNeely, 1988; Winkelmann, et al., 2003)

Greater long-tongued fruit bats move around 1 to 2 km per night while feeding, although this range may be significantly smaller in areas with higher densities of wild banana plants. It has been hypothesized (Gould, 1978) that individuals may follow set routes as they travel from plant to plant each night. (Bates and Harrison, 1997; Gould, 1978; Lekagul and McNeely, 1988)

  • Plant Foods
  • fruit
  • nectar
  • pollen
  • flowers


Predators specific to Macroglossus sobrinus are unknown, but Old World fruit bats generally have few predators. Snakes, birds of prey, and carnivorous mammals occasional prey on them. Of these, snakes are most common predators of bats in roosts. While predation influences behavior and feeding habits, it does not significantly affect population size. (Mickleburg, et al., 1992)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

One of the major roles that Macroglossus sobrinus fills is that of a pollinator to a variety of ecologically important plant species. A study in 2002 found that Macroglossus sobrinus serves as an effective pollinator for Musa itinerans, an important pioneer species in the rain forests of southwestern China. A separate study found that Macroglossus sobrinus serves an important role in the pollination of a wild banana, Musa acuminata. (Gould, 1978; Itino, et al., 1991)

Macroglossus sobrinus populations in Cambodia serves as a potential host for a variety of viruses in the Lyssavirus family. This is evidenced by the presence of anti-lyssavirus neutralizing antibodies in serum samples. (Reynes, et al., 2004)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates
Mutualist Species
  • Musa itinerans
  • Musa acuminata
Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Lyssavirus

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Greater long-tongued fruit bats are primary pollinators of wild bananas, Musa acuminata. In addition to producing a widely-consumed fruit, the wild banana tree is also known as a pioneer species. It is useful in recolonizing depleted tropical forest. (Itino, et al., 1991; Liu, et al., 2002)

  • Positive Impacts
  • pollinates crops

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Greater long-tongued fruit bats have antigens for the Lyssavirus – a family of viruses containing rabies. It indicates that they may be carriers for the Lyssavirus, and could infect humans with rabies. Their large localized population density results in their being classified as vermin in India, although they do not harm people and are beneficial through pollination services. (Reynes, et al., 2004)

  • Negative Impacts
  • injures humans
    • carries human disease

Conservation Status

Due to the large range of Macroglossus sobrinus, the species is considered stable. The lack of endemic subspecies coupled with the locally common nature of Macroglossus sobrinus contributes to this assessment. In addition, the species is present in multiple protected areas across South Asia, minimizing the need for conservation measures. Although the species is generally “safe," it may be locally threatened as a result of habitat loss due to bamboo extraction and the conversion of land for agricultural use. Molur et. al. (2008) recommend survey, population monitoring, and habitat management to the Indian government. (Bates and Harrison, 1997; Hutson, et al., 2008)

Other Comments

Macroglossus sobrinus was considered to be a subspecies of Macroglossus minimus, from the works of E. Geoffrey in 1810 until the more recent research done by Hill in 1983. Currently, a variety of different authors consider M. sobrinus to be a distinct species, including Corbet and Hill (1992), Koopman (1993), Bates and Harrison (1997) and Simmons (2005). All Indian specimens are referred to by the subspecies name of Macroglossus sobrinus sobrinus. The species name Macroglossus sobrinus is also synonymous with Macroglossus fraternus. The common name is variable, although most sources use either “hill long-tongued fruit bats” or “greater long-tongued fruit bats”. (Bates and Harrison, 1997; Lekagul and McNeely, 1988; Hutson, et al., 2008; Wilson and Reeder, 1993)


Anthony Capizzo (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Erika Etnyre (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor, instructor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.



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

World Map


uses sound to communicate


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.


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.


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.


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.


an animal that mainly eats nectar from flowers


active during the night


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species


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.

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them


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.


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


uses touch to communicate


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).


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 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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Bates, P., D. Harrison. 1997. Bats of the Indian Subcontinent. Bowerwood House, St Botolph's Road, Sevenoaks, Kent TN13 3AQ, England: Harrison Zoological Museum.


Bonaccorso, F., B. McNab. 1997. Plasticity of Energetics in Blossom Bats (Pteropodidae): Impact on Distribution. Journal of Mammalogy, 78/4: 1073-1088. Accessed April 10, 2009 at

Funakoshi, K., A. Zubaid, S. Matsumura. 1995. Regular Pulse Emission in Some Megachiropteran Bats. Zoological Science, 12/4: 503-505. Accessed April 08, 2009 at

Gould, E. 1978. Foraging Behavior of Malaysian Nectar-Feeding Bats. Biotropica, 10/3: 184-193. Accessed April 08, 2009 at

Hood, C. 1989. Comparative Morphology and Evolution of the Female Reproductive Tract in Macroglossine Bats (Mammalia, Chiroptera). Journal of Morphology, 199: 207-221. Accessed April 08, 2009 at

Hosken, D. 1998. Testes mass in megachiropteran bats varies in accordance with sperm competition theory. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 44/3: 169-177. Accessed April 08, 2009 at

Hutson, A., A. Suyanto, T. Kingston, P. Bates, C. Francis, S. Molur, C. Srinivasulu. 2008. "IUCN 2008 Red List- Macroglossus sobrinus" (On-line). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed April 05, 2009 at

Itino, T., M. Kato, M. Hotta. 1991. Pollination Ecology of the Two Wild Bananas, Musa acuminata subsp. halabanensis and M. salaccensis: Chiropterophily and Ornithophily. Biotropica, 23/2: 151-158. Accessed April 05, 2009 at

Lekagul, B., J. McNeely. 1988. Mammals of Thailand. Darnsutha Press: Association for the Conservation of Wildlife.

Liu, A., D. Li, H. Wang, W. Kress. 2002. Ornithophilous and Chiropterophilous Pollination in Musa itinerans (Musaceae), a Pioneer Species in Tropical Rain Forests of Yunnan, Southwestern China. Biotropica, 32/2: 254-260. Accessed April 08, 2009 at

Mickleburg, S., A. Hutson, P. Racey. 1992. "Old World Fruit Bats: An Action Plan for their Conservation" (On-line). Accessed April 08, 2009 at

Reynes, J., S. Molia, L. Audry, S. Hout, S. Ngin, J. Walston, H. Bourhy. 2004. "Serologic Evidence of Lyssavirus Infection in Bats, Cambodia" (On-line). Accessed April 07, 2009 at

Wilson, D., D. Reeder. 1993. Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Winkelmann, J., F. Bonaccorso, E. Goedeke, L. Ballock. 2003. Home Range and Territoriality in the Least Blossom Bat, Macroglossus minimus, in Papua New Guinea. Journal of Mammalogy, 84/2: 561-570. Accessed April 10, 2009 at