Pteropus hypomelanusvariable flying fox

Geographic Range

Pteropus hypomelanus is found in the Indo-Australian region, including the Philippines, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Trobiand, and the Woodlork Islands and west to Thailand and the Mergui Archipelago, but excluding Java and the lesser Sunda shelf islands. Variable flying foxes are also found in the Maldives and on islands along the eastern and western coastal regions of the Malay Peninsula. They are not found on the mainland Malay peninsula or on mainland India or Sri Lanka. (Jones and Kunz, 2000)


Variable flying foxes are found at elevations ranging from sea level to greater than 900 meters in the Philippines, but it is uncommon to find them in montane upland forest and submontane rainforest. However, variable flying foxes are found no higher than 100 meters above sea level in the Conflict Islands. Forested areas of small to medium sized islands and lowland and disturbed forests are the main habitat of P. hypomelanus. They can be found in broadleaf forests, coconut groves, and orchards. (Jones and Kunz, 2000; "Old World Fruit Bats I", 2003)

  • Range elevation
    0 to >900 m
    0.00 to ft

Physical Description

A naked dorsal tibia distinguishes P. hypomelanus from other Pteropus species. Length of forearm, overall body size, and locality generally are also useful for differentiating between members of the genus Pteropus. Variable flying foxes have a nearly four foot wingspan (1.21 m). Overall body length is 183 to 240 mm. Variable flying foxes are sexually dimorphic with males weighing 567 to 576 g and females weighing 467.5 to 472.5 g. They are distinguished from Pteropus faunulus by their larger body size, larger teeth, and shorter fur. The species P. hypomelanus has a forearm length of 121 to 150 mm and a skull length of 62.1 to 69.0 mm. The specis Pteropus dasymallus is different in its longer and denser pelage and fur on the upper surface of its dorsal tibia. The species P. hypomelanus is smaller than Pteropus alecto, Pteropus conspicillatus, Pteropus macrotis, Pteropus neohibernicus and Pteropus vampyrus. Also, a pale patch of fur on the chest of P. hypomelanus distinguishes it from P. vampyrus. Variable flying foxes differ from Pteropus pumilus in their larger size and dark brown hairs on the throat instead of pale gray. Variable flying foxes are distinguished from Dobsonia chapmani by the presence of a claw on the second digit and by having four upper and two lower incisors. (Jones and Kunz, 2000; "Lubee Bat Conservancy", 2004; McNab and Armstrong, 2001)

The body of P. hypomelanus is fully furred and fur color is highly variable. The fur on the head is most commonly dark brown, but can range from light to yellowish brown. This head and mantle pelage color varies geographically, being darker in the western portions of the range and lighter in eastern portions of the range. Dorsum fur is brown to reddish brown while some subspecies have gray or silver hairs. Stomach color ranges from a golden buff to a cream buff. The hair around the eyes is generally grayish in color. The ears are covered in long, sparse hair on the front, but are nearly naked towards the back. The hair is short and dense on the forehead but becomes longer gradually from the neck to the mantle. The dorsal fur of P. hypomelanus is quite short while the ventral fur is an average length. The midline of the back attaches to the wing membranes as well as the base of the first phalanx of the second toe. (Jones and Kunz, 2000)

The cranium of P. hypomelanus is large, elongate, and robust, with well-developed postorbital processes and a bony spur on anterior surface of the zygomatic arch. There is often a well-developed sagittal crest, formed by the fusion of the temporal ridges. (Jones and Kunz, 2000)

Males have basal metabolic rates that are higher than expected, given their body size (0.627 ± 0.0216 cm3O2/g•h). Females have basal metabolic rates lower than expected, 83% of the expected value, given their body size (0.487 ± 0.0167 cm3O2/g•h)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    467.5 to 576 g
    16.48 to 20.30 oz
  • Range length
    183 to 240 mm
    7.20 to 9.45 in
  • Average wingspan
    1.21 m
    3.97 ft
  • Range basal metabolic rate
    0.487 ± 0.0167 to 0.627 ± 0.0216 cm3.O2/g/hr


During the summer, P. hypomelanus will organize into camps, or harems. Males become very territorial over both harems of females and entire roosts. They mark their area with a scent gland on their throat. During the mating season, P. hypomelanus, which is polygynous, will mate more than once per day for several days. Over the gestation period, males and females separate, with pregnant females forming a separate colony. In those colonies, females participate in mutual caretaking and grooming. During birth, which occurs during the day, females will hang upside-down using the claws on their wings and their feet and lick their genitals until the pup’s head begins to emerge, a process that may last many hours. After birth, the pups, which can weigh up to 10% of the mother’s weight, will assume a comfortable suckling position while attaching to a nipple. (Jones and Kunz, 2000; "Lubee Bat Conservancy", 2004; "Old World Fruit Bats I", 2003)

In the Philippines, a P. hypomelanus pregnancy occurred in April and births recorded in April and May. The mating season of Pteropus species is usually from February to April. Lactating females were found in August, and lactation generally lasts about six weeks. Reproductive maturity is obtained at the age of one year for both males and females. In a captive setting, females were able to give birth each month of the year with a peak in the birth period occurring in May and June. Gestation lasts for 180 to 210 days. (Jones and Kunz, 2000; "Old World Fruit Bats I", 2003)

  • Breeding interval
    Variable flying foxes breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    The breeding season generally extends from February to April for species in the genus Pteropus.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 (low)
  • Range gestation period
    180 to 210 days
  • Average weaning age
    6 weeks
  • Average time to independence
    4 to 6 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 years

After birth, P. hypomelanus mothers will fly with young pups for two to three weeks, until they become too heavy. At that point the pup is left behind with other young. In a month, the young learn enough coordination to explore and, by January and February, they form small groups around their mothers. When the young are able to take care of themselves, the mother will breed again. Young P. hypomelanus remain dependent on their mothers for about 4 to 6 months. (Jones and Kunz, 2000; "Old World Fruit Bats I", 2003)

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


Little is known about lifespan in variable flying foxes. Wild caught, captive variable flying foxes have been known to live 9 years. (Jones and Kunz, 2000; "Lubee Bat Conservancy", 2004)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    9 (high) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    20.3 years


The roosting habits of P. hypomelanus vary from solitary individuals to large colonies called “camps” numbering anywhere from 10 to several hundred individuals. Often these large groups are responsible for the defoliation of their roosting trees by damage to young shoots and leaves as the flying foxes perch. Colonies are often organized into small family groups. In the Philippines group sizes of 50 to 70 have been reported, while roosting groups of 40 to 50 have been reported in Malaysia. Fighting occurs in the form of verbal threats and boxing with closed wings. In the Maldive Islands, skirmishes occur when two individuals meet while feeding and continue until one of the individuals leaves. (Allen, 1940; Jones and Kunz, 2000; "Lubee Bat Conservancy", 2004; Wilson, 1997)

In hot weather, P. hypomelanus will cool itself by flapping its wings, licking its chest, and panting. During the day, they hang from branches with either one or both of their feet and also wrap their bodies with their wings. In cool weather, they completely wrap themselves to maintain body heat. Similar behavior occurs in wet and rainy weather. When variable flying foxes decide to leave their roost, they flap their wings with their feet still clenched to the tree branch until their bodies are parallel with the ground. Upon reaching this position they will finally let go of the branch and begin to fly. (Allen, 1940; Jones and Kunz, 2000; "Old World Fruit Bats I", 2003; Wilson, 1997)

At night, P. hypomelanus will travel from their roosting islands to feed at mainland locations, however none have been found any farther than 8 km from a known roost site. They fly about 30 m above the ground and will often seek troughs in waves when over seas to help overcome wind resistance. Variable flying foxes extend the claws on their thumbs during flight and use them to help land in a head-up position along with both feet. Upon landing, these flying foxes release their thumbs and hang from their feet. They feed either while hanging from their feet or clinging to vegetation with all four limbs. (Allen, 1940; Jones and Kunz, 2000; "Old World Fruit Bats I", 2003; Wilson, 1997)

  • Range territory size
    8 (high) km^2

Home Range

Variable flying foxes have never been found more than 8 km away from a known roosting site. (Jones and Kunz, 2000)

Communication and Perception

Variable flying foxes have keen eyesight, hearing, and sense of smell. They communicate with vocalizations, touch, visual displays, and chemical cues. They use their sense of smell and vision to navigate and locate food. ("Old World Fruit Bats I", 2003)

Food Habits

Variable flying foxes feed primarily on fruit and nectar from wild and cultivated plants. Known food sources include pawpaw fruits, mangos, jambu, bananas or plantains, figs, banyan flowers, berries of the damba tree, fruits of cultivated crops, flowers of the kapok tree, chico, coconut flowers, and fruits of the babolo tree. Food is found through a highly specialized sense of sight and smell. Variable flying foxes eat about half of their own body weight daily. (Jones and Kunz, 2000; "Lubee Bat Conservancy", 2004; "Old World Fruit Bats I", 2003)

  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit
  • nectar
  • pollen
  • flowers


Variable flying foxes are hunted by humans for food. Their noisy roosting habits allow hunters to easily find them. Variable flying foxes are also often exported as a food source. (Jones and Kunz, 2000; "Lubee Bat Conservancy", 2004; "Old World Fruit Bats I", 2003)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic
  • Known Predators
    • humans (Homo sapien)

Ecosystem Roles

Variable flying foxes act as pollinators and seed dispersers, as do many other members of the genus Pteropus. About half of bat-dependent plants are used for nourishment, materials, and medicine by humans. (Helmick, et al., 2002; Helmick, et al., 2002; "Old World Fruit Bats I", 2003)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds
  • pollinates
Mutualist Species
  • Almost 30 types of plants within its range.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Natives of the Philippines and Malaysia export these bats as food. Variable flying foxes are considered a delicacy in some parts of its range. A typical dish includes the animal in its entirety, fur, wings and innards, which is boiled in coconut milk and eaten as is. However, P. hypomelanus is protected in many areas. ("Lubee Bat Conservancy", 2004; McNab and Armstrong, 2001; "Old World Fruit Bats I", 2003)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • produces fertilizer
  • pollinates crops

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Variable flying foxes are considered destructive agricultural pests by orchard growers. (Jones and Kunz, 2000; "Old World Fruit Bats I", 2003)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

The most serious threat to variable flying foxes is deforestation and over hunting. Pteropus hypomelanus was placed on the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) list in 1989. It is not on the 2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species or the U.S. Federal list. (Jones and Kunz, 2000; "Lubee Bat Conservancy", 2004; "Old World Fruit Bats I", 2003)

Other Comments

Names for P. hypomelanus include the island fox, Condoro Island flying fox, variable flying fox, lesser flying fox, kluang kechil, kalong kecil, memboi, and udawed, depending on geographic location. The word Pteropus comes from the Greek word pteron, meaning ‘foot’. In addition, the Greek words hypo, meaning ‘below’ or ‘underneath’, and melan, meaning ‘black’ or ‘dark’, help derive the more specific name hypomelanus. (Jones and Kunz, 2000)

It has been recently discovered that a Pasteurella-like organism has been causing cases of pneumonia in P. hypomelanus.


Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Ryan Ouillette (author), Kalamazoo College, Ann Fraser (editor, instructor), Kalamazoo College.



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

World Map


uses sound to communicate


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

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


used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.


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


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


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


an animal that mainly eats fruit


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

island endemic

animals that live only on an island or set of islands.


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).


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.


an animal that mainly eats nectar from flowers


active during the night


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


having more than one female as a mate at one time


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.

scent marks

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

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.


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


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


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.


Lubee Bat Conservancy. 2004. "Lubee Bat Conservancy" (On-line). Lubee Bat Conservancy. Accessed November 19, 2005 at

The Gale Group, Inc. 2003. Old World Fruit Bats I. Pp. 319-325 in M Hutchins, D Kleiman, M McDade, V Geist, eds. Pteropus Hypomelanus, Vol. 13, Second Edition. Farmington Hills, MI: Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia.

Allen, G. 1940. Bats. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Flannery, T. 1995. Mammals of the South-West Pacific & Moluccan Islands. Chatswood, Australia and Ithaca, New York: Reed Books and Cornell University Press.

Helmick, K., D. Heard, L. Richey, M. Finnegan, G. Ellis, A. Nguyen, L. Tucker, R. Weyant. 2002. A PASTEURELLA-LIKE BACTERIUM ASSOCIATED WITH PNEUMONIA IN CAPTIVE MEGACHIROPTERANS. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, 35/1: 88–93. Accessed November 23, 2005 at

Jones, D., T. Kunz. 2000. Pteropus hypomelanus. Mammalian Species, 693: 1-6. Accessed November 03, 2005 at Biology/VHAYSSEN/msi/pdf/639_Pteropus_hypomelanus.pdf.

McNab, B., M. Armstrong. 2001. SEXUAL DIMORPHISM AND SCALING OF ENERGETICS IN FLYING FOXES OF THE GENUS PTEROPUS. Journal of Mammology, Vol. 82, No. 3: 709–720. Accessed November 19, 2005 at

Wilson, D. 1997. Bats In Question. Hong Kong: Smithsonian Institution Press.