Mystacina tuberculataNew Zealand lesser short-tailed bat

Geographic Range

M. tuberculata lives only on New Zealand and the islands immediately adjacent to it. These islands include North Island, South Island, Little Barrier Island, and several smaller islands off of Stewart Island. (Macdonald, 1984; Nowak, 1994)


These bats mostly live in the forests of New Zealand and its neighboring islands. (Nowak, 1994)

Physical Description

The forearm length for M.tuberculata ranges in length from 40 to 45 mm. They are small bats, reaching head-body lengths of 6 to 8 cm. M. tuberculata has thick fur, actually thicker than that found on other species of bats. The upper portion of its body is gray brown, while the underparts are paler. The claws are needle sharp. The wings are unique in their thick and leathery membranes, and because they can be rolled under when the bat is not flying, enabling it to use its arms as forelegs when on the ground. The first phalanx of each digit folds to the outer side of the metacarpal when the wing is folded, unlike in other species of bat, in which the phalanx folds in. The thumb is also unique in that it has a large claw with a small talon projecting from it, a feature lacking in other microchiropterans. The claws of the feet also display talons. The tail perforates the dorsal surface of the tail membrane, which is thick and wrinkled at the base of the tail. M. tuberculata have an obliquely truncated muzzle, primitive nostril patterns, and a scattering of stiff bristles with spoon-shaped tips on their snout. The nostrils are oblong and vertical. The ears have a long, pointed tragus. The feet are short and broad and the sole of the foot has a grooved covering, as do the short, thick legs. A well developed calcar is present. The cheekteeth are tritubercular, and the upper molars are very well developed. M. tuberculata do not have a postorbital process. The tongue is partly extensible, with papillae at its tip. (Nowak, 1994; Macdonald, 1984; Lawlor,1979)

  • Average mass
    23.5 g
    0.83 oz


M. tuberculata are polyestrous. Births occur at any time, with the single young being born between spring and autumn. (Nowak,1994)

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Average number of offspring


  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    7.6 years


These short-tailed bats live in the forests, with small groups using hollow trees, caves, and rock crevices as roosts. This is a colonial species, but very little is known about its ecology. Apparently, groups of these bats use their teeth to burrow, making roosting cavities and tunnels in trees and underground. M. tuberculata are very strong, agile climbers and crawlers. Their foldable wing membrane assists them in these physical maneuvers, allowing them to use their forewings much like rodents use their forelegs, to burrow, climb, and walk. The basal talons on the claws of their thumbs, as well as on their toes are also adapted for a terrestrial, arboreal and fossorial lifestyle. This particular species does not hibernate, and is active in the late evening. (Lawlor,1979; Nowak, 1994)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

M. tuberculata are omnivorous, eating fruit, nectar, and pollen, as well as insects and other arthropods, and they have been seen to dine on carrion. (Macdonald,1984; Stoddart, 1979)

Conservation Status

The IUNC regards M.tuberculata ans vulnerable. It is thought that this species declined through destruction of forest habitat, predation by introduced rats and other non-native mammals, accidental poisoning, and human disturbance of roosts. (Nowak, 1994)


Francesca Ivaldi (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map

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.


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


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.


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


uses touch to communicate


Macdonald, D. Encyclopedia of Mammals. Facts on File Publications, New York, 1984

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

Nowak, Ronald M. Walker's Bats of the World. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore 1994.

Stoddart, D. Michael, ed. "Ecology of Small Mammals" Chapman & Hall, London 1979.

Pukaha Mount Bruce, 2005. "Short-tailed bat, Mystacina translocation" (On-line). Accessed March 06, 2005 at