Mormoopidaeghost-faced bats, moustached bats, and naked-backed bats

This neotropical family is composed of two genera containing eight species, distributed from Brazil to the southern United States. Based on evidence from morphology, chromosome structure, and biochemical features, mormoopids are thought to be closely related to the Phyllostomidae, and until recently it was included in that family as the subfamily Chilonycterinae. The Mormoopidae also appears to be close to the Noctilionidae, and it has been suggested that those three New World families may have shared a common ancestor in the Paleocene.

These small to medium-sized bats lack a well-developed noseleaf, but they do have a small bump on their noses roughly in the position of that structure. Their lips are large, and their lower lips are complexly folded and ornately decorated with plates and flaps of skin. The mouth is distinctively shaped like a funnel when open. Mormoopids also have a fringe of stiff hairs on their muzzles; hence the name "moustache bat." Their eyes are small compared to the eyes of phyllostomids of similar body size. The ears vary in size and shape but always have a tragus (which always has a secondary fold). In some species, the wings attach to the body high along the midline of the back, so that the surface of the back appears naked. Beneath the wings, however, is a normal coating of fur. The fur of most species is brown or reddish brown, but within species some individuals vary considerably in color.

The skulls of mormoopids lack postorbital processes. The premaxillae are complete and fused to each other and to the adjacent maxillae. The palatal branches are well developed and define two palatal formina. The dental formula of members of this family is 2/2, 1/1, 2/3, 3/3 = 34. The molars are dilambdodont.

These bats are strictly insectivorous and generally live near water. They roost gregariously, sometimes in very large colonies, and some species are thought to roost exclusively in caves. They can be found in a wide range of habitat types, from rainforest to arid deserts.

The fossil record of mormoopids is poor, extending only to the Pleistocene.

Technical characters

References and literature cited:

Anderson, S. and J. K. Jones, Jr., 1984. Orders and Families of Recent Mammals of the World. John Wiley and Sons, New York. 686pp.

Feldhamer, G. A., L. C. Drickamer, S. H. Vessey, and J. F. Merritt. 1999. Mammalogy. Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. WCB McGraw-Hill, Boston. xii+563pp.

Fenton, M. B., P. Racey, and J.M. V. Rayner (eds.), 1987. Recent Advances in the Study of Bats . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Hill, J. E. and J. D. Smith, 1992. Bats: A Natural History . University of Texas Press, Austin.

Lawlor, T. 1979. Handbook to the Orders and Families of Living Mammals. Mad River Press.

Macdonald, D. (ed.). 1993. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Facts on File Publications

Richarz, K. and A. Limbrunner. 1993. The World of Bats. Tropical Fish Hobbyist.

Vaughan, T. A., J. M. Ryan, N. J. Czaplewski. 2000. Mammalogy. Fourth Edition. Saunders College Publishing, Philadelphia. vii+565pp.

Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder. 1993. Mammal Species of the World, A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. 2nd edition. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington. xviii+1206 pp.

Written by Bret Weinstein and Phil Myers; last updated 30 October 1999.


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


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.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


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


uses touch to communicate