Natalidaefunnel-eared bats

The family Natalidae is composed of a single genus with five species. These bats are found in tropical lowlands of the New World, from northern Mexico south to Brazil. They also occur in the West Indies.

Natalids are small bats with relatively long legs. Their skulls are high-crowned, with the braincase rising abruptly from the long muzzle. Each ear is large and funnel-shaped and includes a short tragus. The outer edge of the ear joins the skull near the margin of the mouth. Adult males have a structure on the face or muzzle called the natalid organ, which is composed of cells that may be sensory or secretory, although the exact function is unknown. Natalids lack a noseleaf. The fur of these bats is distinctively long and silky, and it varies in color from grey to yellowish to chestnut. They have a well-developed uropatagium, which encloses the tail.

The skulls of natalids include complete premaxillae; the palatal and nasal branches are fused with the maxillae, and the palatal branches are fused at the midline, isolating two palatal foramina. The molars are dilambdodont, and the dental formula is 2/3, 1/1, 3/3, 3/3 = 38.

Natalids are quite common in some areas, often roosting in caves and mines. Social groups range in number from very large to fewer than ten. The flight of these bats is fluttery and moth-like.

Natalids feed exclusively on small insects.

These bats are probably closely related to the Thyropteridae and Furipteridae.

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.


Bret Weinstein (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (author), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.


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