Promops nasutusbrown mastiff bat

Geographic Range

Brown mastiff bats are found from Venezuela, Colombia and the island of Trinidad in the north to southern Brazil and northern Argentina in the south. (Eger, 2008; PaQui, et al., 2016; Rufray, 2015; Simmons, 2005)


Brown mastiff bats are volant animals that inhabit tropical and subtropical forests, scrubland and savanna. They have been observed in the thorn-scrub habitat of the Chaco region of Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina. The Chaco region is xerophytic thorn-scrub forest with approximately 400 mm of annual rainfall. They have also been observed in peripheral regions to this habitat, such as the Yungas phytogeographic region in Argentina. The highest elevation they have been recorded from is 2,560 m. Brown mastiff bats are known to roost in a variety of natural places including palms, hollow trees and rock crevices. Additionally, they have been observed and captured in man made environments such as the roofs of houses. (Barquez and Díaz, 2001; Copaverde-Júnior, et al., 2014; Myers, et al., 1983; PaQui, et al., 2016; Presley and Higgins, 2009; Sandoval and Barquez, 2013; Sazima and Uieda, 1977; Siles, et al., 2005)

  • Range elevation
    2560 (high) m
    8398.95 (high) ft

Physical Description

Brown mastiff bats are free-tailed bats in the family Molossidae, subfamily Molossinae. Free-tailed bats are aptly named for the thick tail extending beyond the distal margin of the uropatagium. The wings of this species are long and narrow with a relatively high aspect ratio of approximately 2.64. The membrane (patagium) of the wings and tail is tough and leathery. The legs are short and stocky and sensory hairs are present on the feet. The brown mastiff bat has short, thick and round ears with a narrow keel and the posterior edge is thin and narrow. The ears arise from the same point on the center of the forehead, projecting forward and laterally. The ears posses a minute tragus and pendant shaped antitragus which is constricted at the base. The muzzle protrudes beyond the lower jaw and exhibits a median ridge extending from behind the nares to the region between the eyes, with long hairs forming a crest between the ears. The brown mastiff bat has smooth lips and a dental formula of 1/2, 1/1, 2/2, 3/3 × 2 = 30. The upper incisors are slender, procumbent and less than half the height of the canines. They also possess four lower weakly bifid incisors with the outer cusp crowded laterally behind the inner. The anterior upper premolars are reduced to spicules and may sometimes be missing. The skull exhibits a highly domed palate with well-defined basisphenoid pits. Morphologically, the brown mastiff bat is very similar to the big crested mastiff bat (Promops centralis). The fur is most often homogenously light brown/cinnamon brown in color with dichromatic banding, but may also have a slightly grayish-brown dorsal coloration. The greatest distinguishing feature between the brown mastiff bat and the big crested bat is size, with the brown mastiff bat being smaller. The two most common size indicators for bats are the skull length and the forearm length. The big crested bat has a forearm longer than 51.5 mm and a skull longer than 19.9 mm, whereas the forearm of the brown mastiff bat is usually shorter than 50 mm (range of 43.5 to 51.8 mm) and the skull is shorter than 19.1 mm (range of 17.6 to 19.7 mm). The average mass of the brown mastiff bat is 19.9 g and the total length ranges from 126 to 141 mm. It is unknown if sexual dimorphism is exhibited within this species; however, within the Molossidae family it is common for males to be larger than females. It is known that molossid bats (including Promops) posses a throat gland; however, it is unknown if there is any sexual dimorphism present in the expression of the throat gland of this species, although dimorphism is observed in the sister genus Molossus. (Eger, 2008; Eisenberg and Redford, 2000; Freeman, 1981; Gregorin and Chiquito, 2010; Grzimek, 2004; Lim and Engstrom, 2001; Sokolov, 1982)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Average mass
    19.9 g
    0.70 oz
  • Range length
    126 to 141 mm
    4.96 to 5.55 in


Although the mating system is unknown for the brown mastiff bat, most species of molossid bats are believed to be polygynous including the sister genus Molossus. For example, the Pallas's mastiff bat (Molossus molossus) exhibits a polygynous mating system where the dominant male maintains a harem. (Gager, et al., 2016; Grzimek, 2004)

Very little information is known about reproduction in the brown mastiff bat. Most species of molossid bats are believed to be monestrus, giving birth to a single offspring once per year; however, some species are known to be polyestrus, including the big crested mastiff bat. Additionally, one species of the sister genus Molossus (the Pallas's mastiff bat) exhibits both reproductive strategies depending on the range inhabited. In general, molossid species of bats have a gestation length of 2 to 3 months and a lactation period of 5 to 6 weeks. The time of parturition and lactation of the brown mastiff bat is synchronized with the rainy season (November and December). A pregnant female specimen with a 3 g fetus was captured in late November. Males have been observed to exhibit scrotal testes during the month of June, although it is uncertain whether this is a permanent state or if the testes regress as in some species of Molossus. Although there is no information in the literature regarding the reproductive cycle of the brown mastiff bat, the closely related black mastiff bat (M. rufus), is a spontaneous ovulator with a functional luteal phase ending in true menstruation. (Barquez and Díaz, 2001; Beguelini, et al., 2013; Crichton and Krutzsch, 2000; Eger, 2008; Fabián and Marques, 1989; Grzimek, 2004; Nolte, et al., 2009; Pacheco, 2001; Sazima and Uieda, 1977)

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Breeding interval
    Breeding intervals in the brown mastiff at are not reported.
  • Breeding season
    The breeding season of the brown mastiff bat is unknown but it is believed they breed during the summer months.
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    2 to 3 months
  • Range weaning age
    5 to 6 weeks

Little information is known about parental investment in the brown mastiff bat.

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


The longevity of the brown mastiff bat is unknown. The median survival for the closely related Pallas's mastiff bat was determined to be 1.8 years with a maximum of 5.6 years. Researchers suggest the short median lifespan is a function of small colony size (mean size of 9.6 ± 6.7 adults), a trait the brown mastiff bat shares (8-12 individuals). These observations contrast the expected pattern of exceptionally long lifespans relative to body size reported in most bat species. The maximum lifespan of the Brazilian free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis), a similarly sized species within the family Molossidae, is approximately 10 years. (Gager, et al., 2016; Grzimek, 2004; Silva, 1975; Wilkinson and South, 2002)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    2 to 10 years


Very little information is known about the behavior of the brown mastiff bat. This species has been observed in colonies ranging from 8 to 12 individuals of both sexes. It is believed that these colonies use the same roosting shelter throughout the year. Brown mastiff bats are volant, small bodied mammals with long and narrow wings. The shape of the wings of these bats result in a relatively high aspect ratio and low wing loading which allows for fast flight but low maneuverability. Thus, brown mastiff bats tend to hunt in open spaces such as the Chaco region. Promops species of bats are considered aerial-hawking insectivores which hunt in uncluttered, open spaces such as above the tree canopy and are therefore classified as open-space foragers. Hunting bouts are restricted to within the first hour after dusk and the hour before dawn when the abundance of insect prey is highest to offset the metabolic costs of foraging. Closely related species such as Pallas’ mastiff bat and black mastiff bat are crepuscular in nature. These bats forage twice per night for short periods of time and their activity does not appear to be influenced by moonlight despite the possible increased risk of predation. The black mastiff bat has been observed outside of their roosts before dusk and after dawn when lighting posed a significant risk of predation from diurnal birds of prey. Mist net captures of Pallas’ mastiff bat returning to roosts after successful foraging bouts show and increase in mass of 30-40% or more. The brown mastiff bat may also exhibit quadrupedal locomotion, which has been observed in other species of mastiff bats such as the closely related black mastiff bat. Observations of the black mastiff bat in captivity reveal that quadrupedal movement was common in males of the species during breeding periods. Males of the black mastiff bat have been observed fighting on all fours, as well as marking females and surfaces with gular gland excretions while moving quadrupedally. Females were also noted to move on all fours in efforts to nuzzle the gular glands of breeding males. (Chase, et al., 1991; Fenton, et al., 1998; Holland, et al., 2011; Nolte, et al., 2009; Sazima and Uieda, 1977; Silva, 1975; Voigt and Holderied, 2012)

Home Range

Nothing is known about the home range of the brown mastiff bat.

Communication and Perception

Bats are known to emit ultrasonic sounds for echolocation. The characteristics of echolocation calls are species specific and can be used to identify animals within the field. In insectivorous aerial-hawking bats such as the brown mastiff bat, echolocation signals consist of three phases: search, approach and terminal (buzz). The search phase is emitted when the bat is actively foraging for food or commuting through the environment. The approach phase is a series of signals emitted to guide the bat towards the target (i.e., insect). The approach phase may be active, passive or random. In the brown mastiff bat, the approach phase is active due to it’s aerial-hawking nature. During the approach phase, the pulse interval and signal duration decrease, eventually transitioning into the terminal (buzz) phase prior to prey capture. The buzz phase consists of a series of short signals at a high repetition rate. The search phase calls of the brown mastiff bat have two types of calls in the search phase: a downward modulated (concave curve) call with frequency range of approximately 31 to 37 kHz and a duration of 11.6-17.0 milliseconds; and an upward modulated (convex curve) call with a frequency range of approximately 37 to 44 kHz and a duration of 8.3 to 12.1 milliseconds. The genus Promops, including the brown mastiff bat, is also known to posses a throat gland. The function of this gland may be chemical communication, particularly during the breeding season. Observations of other molossid bat species using throat or gular glands for scent marking have been recorded in the literature, but currently no direct observations of this behavior have been recorded in the brown mastiff bat. (Jung, et al., 2014; Rufray, 2015; Schnitzler and Kalko, 2001; Siles, et al., 2005; Sokolov, 1982)

Food Habits

Very little about the food habits of the brown mastiff bat have been reported in the literature. It is known that this species of bat is an aerial-hawking insectivore. There are no reports of the diet of this species; however, it is possible the diet closely resembles that of Molossus species. The stomach contents of both the Pallas’ mastiff bat and the black mastiff bat included prey items ranging in size from 2 to 25 mm in length from a wide range of insect orders including beetles (Coleoptera); damselflies (Zygoptera); grasshoppers (Orthoptera); “true bugs” (Hemiptera and Homoptera); “true flies” (Diptera); and bees, ants and wasps (Hymenoptera). (Eger, 2008)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects


There is no information on predation of the brown mastiff bat reported in the literature. Other species of bats in the neotropics are preyed on mainly by birds of prey such as American kestrels (Falco sparverius); bat falcons (F. rufigularis); and several owl species including black and white owls (Ciccaba nigrolin), great horned owls (Bubo virginianus), barn owls (Tyto alba) and tropical screech owls (Otus choliba). Other predators include snakes such as boiids (Boidae), colubrids (Colubridae) and viperids (Viperidae); invertebrates such as centipedes (i.e., Scolependra viridicornis); and mammals including domestic cats (Felis catus), and spectral bats (Vampyrum spectrum). Predator avoidance in the brown mastiff bat is not recorded in the literature. Few studies have been conducted on predator/prey interactions of molossid bats. Some species of molossid bats are known to exhibit moonlight avoidance behavior, although this behavior is not evident in the Pallas's mastiff bat. Additionally, one study indicates that the closely related Pallas's mastiff bat exhibited inspection passes during flight in response to distress calls from conspecifics. (Aguirre, et al., 2003; Carter, et al., 2015; Esbérard and Vrcibradic, 2007; Grzimek, 2004; Holland, et al., 2011; Ibañez, et al., 1992; Lima and O'Keefe, 2013; de Noronha, et al., 2015; de Souza Aguiar, et al., 2012)

Ecosystem Roles

The brown mastiff bat is a member of the aerial insectivore trophic guild, consuming large quantities of insects within their ecosystem. The closely related black mastiff bat has been known to consume 4.4 g of beetle per night during foraging flights. As a result, the brown mastiff bat plays a role in the population control of insect species within the ecosystem. The brown mastiff bat is a known host for endoparasites, such as the parasitic nematode Pterygodermatites andyraicola (Paucipectines), and are also hosts to ectoparasites, such as ticks of the family Argasidae. The guano of the brown mastiff bat harbors the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum which may cause respiratory infections in humans. (Cardia, et al., 2015; D’Auria, et al., 2010; Fenton, et al., 1998; Galvão Dias, et al., 2010; Presley and Higgins, 2009)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Argasidae
  • Pterygodermatites
  • Histoplasma capsulatum

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Brown mastiff bats may benefit humans by consuming large numbers of a variety of insects which are considered agricultural pests. In addition, the guano of molossid bat species may be used as a fertilizer. (Grzimek, 2004)

  • Positive Impacts
  • produces fertilizer
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Molossid bats including the brown mastiff bat are considered vectors for rabies and possibly rickettsioses (transmitted by infected Argasidae ticks). Another zoonotic disease known to be transferred from molossid bats to humans is histoplasmosis. This disease is caused by humans encountering and inhaling the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum, that grows in bat guano, resulting in respiratory infection. In urban areas of the Brazilian state of São Paulo, researchers isolated H. capsulatum from 3.6% of molossid species sampled over a five-year period. Most infected bats were collected from roofs in densely populated areas, increasing the risk of transmission and infection. (D’Auria, et al., 2010; Galvão Dias, et al., 2010; Grzimek, 2004)

Conservation Status

The brown mastiff bat is listed as “least concern” on the IUCN Red List due to its wide distribution and assumed large population. However, the site states that the species is uncommon and population trends are unknown. Additionally, some regions of natural habitat (i.e., the Argentine Yungas and the Chaco) have been fragmented due to human activity, such as agriculture, which may fragment populations of this species. The effects of this fragmentation are unknown at this time. (Barquez and Díaz, 2001; Barquez and Díaz, 2015; Sandoval and Barquez, 2013)

Other Comments

Several populations of the brown mastiff bat are recognized. These populations may represent distinct phylogenetic lineages, but molecular and morphological analysis are required to further investigate these relationships and the subspecies validity. The subspecies are Promops nasutus nasutus (eastern Brazil), Promops nasutus fosteri (Paraguay), Promops nasutus pamana (western Brazil), Promops nasutus ancilla (northwestern Argentina), and Promops nasutus downsi (island of Trinidad). (Eger, 2008; Gregorin and Chiquito, 2010)


Alicia Fox (author), University of Manitoba, Jane Waterman (editor), University of Manitoba, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

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

causes disease in humans

an animal which directly causes disease in humans. For example, diseases caused by infection of filarial nematodes (elephantiasis and river blindness).

causes or carries domestic animal disease

either directly causes, or indirectly transmits, a disease to a domestic animal


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


active at dawn and dusk

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.


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.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


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.


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.


having more than one female as a mate at one time

scent marks

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

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.


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.


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.


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