Nycteris hispidahairy slit-faced bat

Geographic Range

Hairy slit-faced bats, Nycteris hispida, are common in Africa south of the Sahara desert. There are two subspecies; N. h. hispida lives in Uganda, Sudan, and Somalia, whereas N. h. villosa lives in South Africa and Mozambique. (Kingdon, 1984; Meester, 1966)


These bats are at home in both human populated communities and in the wild. In settlements they are found roosting in roofs or empty rooms. In the wild they can be found resting in bushes, aardvark holes, termite mounds, hollow trees and papyrus crowns. N. hispida lives just about anywhere, from dry open country to moist woodlands and marshes, often flying through papyrus swamps. (Kingdon, 1984)

Physical Description

Slit-faced bats in general share a common physical feature. A "slit" runs down the muzzle and ends at the nostrils. Around this slit is a nose-leaf. The interorbital region of the skull is deeply concave. N. hispida has ears longer than its head, which are connected near the base of the ears by a membrane. N. hispida also has a small tragus, small eyes, broad wings, and a long tail with a T-shaped tip made of cartilage. The dental formula for N. hispida is 2/3, 1/1, 1/2, 3/3 = 32. The forearm rages between 36 and 45 mm in length, and the ear is 18 to 25 mm long. The young have forearms that are about 15 mm long. Their fur is brown and long. (Kingdon, 1984; Meester, 1966; Nowak, 1997; Vaughan, et al., 2000)


There is not much detailed literature on the reproductive habits of N. hispida. It is likely that these bats are monogamous; pairing is quite common, and animals are often found in family groups. (Kingdon, 1984; Nowak, 1997)

In Zaire, it was noted that most births occurred in the spring months of March and April. However, there was another minor birthing season in September. One offspring is born to a female per breeding season. Adult size is reached in about two months, but the mother will still fly with her young clinging to her. Although the age of weaning is not known for this species, in another member of the genus, N. nana, females continue to nurse their offspring from 45 to 60 days. (Kingdon, 1984)

  • Breeding interval
    Hairy slit-faced bats may breed twice a year.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding may occur once in the Spring (March and April) and once in early Fall (September).
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 1

Little is known about parental investment in this species, though it has been documented that N. hispida is similar to other mammals in that the mother will care for her young until it is ready for independence. The mother apparently carries the young with her. The role of males in parental care has not been documented. (Kingdon, 1984)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-fertilization
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female


No information is available on the longevity of these animals.


Like all other bats, N. hispida uses flight as the primary form of locomotion. Typically, hairy slit-faced bats are found in groups of 20 or so individuals, though solitary animals are often seen. They roost during the day and become active about two hours before dusk. They are known to be very attached to their roosting site, and will return to it even after being frightened away.

N. hispida is a slow flying bat, but very agile and can easily navigate thick and difficult territory. However, they hunt for insects on the surface of leaves or walls more often than catching them in the air. (Kingdon, 1984)

Home Range


Communication and Perception

Because N. hispida is active during the night, vision is almost useless. Therefore, like many bats, they use echolocation to perceive their environment. They emit sounds that are often a higher frequency than humans can hear, and use the sound waves that bounce back as a type of radar to know their surroundings. The slit down a hairy slit-faced bat's face may have some role in echolocation. (Kingdon, 1984; Nowak, 1997)

There are some kinds of social communication in this species. When a young bat was separated from its mother, it called out and a different bat left the roost, even though it was day. Communication calls between mother and young are common in many bat species. (Balcombe, 1990; Kingdon, 1984)

Food Habits

Hairy slit-faced bats eat small insects (flying or otherwise) including moths, gleaned mainly from well lit walls or from the ground. It may be inferred from its feeding habits that N. hispida uses vision in a supplemental manner. (Kingdon, 1984)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects


It has been reported that these bats are sometimes killed by birds of prey such as owls and marsh harriers, as well as snakes and other mammals, including other bats. Their ability to avoid capture while in flight is a key tactic for survival. (Kingdon, 1984; Nowak, 1997)

Ecosystem Roles

Like other bats, N. hispida eats large amounts of insects, likely affecting insect populations. (Nowak, 1997)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Humans certainly benefit agriculturally from the large amounts of insects eaten each day by bats. And in turn, humans create "restaurants" for these bats when at night street lights or store signs attract many insects. The guano of these bats can be used as fertilizer. (Kingdon, 1984)

  • Positive Impacts
  • produces fertilizer
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse affects of N. hispida on humans.

Conservation Status

N. hispida is found throughout Southern Africa and does not seem to be threatened by the growth of towns or cities.


Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Alice Park (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor, instructor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

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.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


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.


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.


union of egg and spermatozoan


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


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.


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).


marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.


Having one mate at a time.


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


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.


living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.


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


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


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

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


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


living in cities and large towns, landscapes dominated by human structures and activity.


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.


Balcombe, J. 1990. Vocal recognition of pups by mother Mexican free-tailed bats, Tadarida brasiliensis mexicana . Animal Behaviour, Vol. 39: 960-966.

Kingdon, J. 1984. East African mammals : An atlas of evolution in Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Meester, J. 1966. Preliminary identification manual for African mammals. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.

Nowak, R. 1997. "Slit-faced Bats, or Hollow-faced Bats" (On-line). Walker's Mammals of the World Online. Accessed April 01, 2004 at

Vaughan, T., J. Ryan, N. Czaplewski. 2000. Mammalogy. Orlando, FL: Saunders College Publishing.