Sturnira liliumlittle yellow-shouldered bat

Geographic Range

Little yellow-shouldered bats are found in the neotropics, ranging from North Mexico (including Sonora and Tamaulipas) through Central America and tropical and subtropical South America to Chile. This includes northern Argentina, eastern and southern Brazil, and the Lesser Antilles. (Gannon, et al., 1989; Mello, et al., 2008; Stoner, 2001; Vieira and Carvalho-Okano, 1994; Wilson and Reeder, 2005)


Little yellow-shouldered bats occupy many different types of forest habitats, including mountainous forests (Mello, Kalko, and Silva, 2008), semi-deciduous tropical rainforests, and humid and semi-arid forests. They are also found in tropical lowlands and open areas, such as fields or farmland. They are common near streams or other bodies of water. They are not found at elevations over 1,000 m (Gannon et al., 1989). Little yellow-shouldered bats commonly roost in tree cavities in lower canopy levels, especially in mature trees with diameters 50% larger than surrounding trees. They prefer to roost in the tree species: Pimenta dioica, Metopium brownei, Vitex gaumeri, and Pseudobombax ellipticum, most likely because the heartwood of these trees easily decays, resulting in hollows (Evelyn and Stiles, 2003). They also roost in manmade structures and caves (Gannon et al., 1989). (Evelyn and Stiles, 2003; Gannon, et al., 1989; Mello, et al., 2008)

  • Range elevation
    0 to 1000 m
    0.00 to 3280.84 ft

Physical Description

Little yellow-shouldered bats are medium-sized bats with total lengths of 62 to 65 mm, forearm lengths of 36.6 to 45.0 mm, and average wingspan of 30 cm (Vieira and Carvalho-Okano, 1994). Males tend to have slightly larger total length and cranial measurements than females (Gannon et al., 1989). Typical mass is 13 to 18g (Evelyn and Stiles, 2003). They have short, broad ears with a tragus that is one-third the size of the ear. They also have distinct nose leaves. No tail is present and calcars are extremely small or absent. Coloring varies by gender, age, and geography. Dorsal fur can be dark gray to reddish-brown and the ventral fur is always lighter than the dorsal fur. The head, neck, and shoulder hairs have a yellow tint due to yellow hair shafts and with dark-brown tips. Males tend to have yellow to red stained shoulder hairs that look like straps on a soldier’s uniform due to an excretion from their shoulder glands. It is this coloring that gives S. lilium the common name "little yellow-shouldered bat." The patagia is solid brown (Gannon et al., 1989). (Evelyn and Stiles, 2003; Gannon, et al., 1989; Nowak, 1991; Vieira and Carvalho-Okano, 1994)

Little yellow-shouldered bats are homoiothermic, with an average body temperature of 36.4 degrees Celsius and a range from 34 to 38 degrees Celsius. They have been known to survive with a body temperature of 41 degrees Celsius (Gannon et al., 1989). (Gannon, et al., 1989)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • Range mass
    13 to 18 g
    0.46 to 0.63 oz
  • Range length
    62 to 65 mm
    2.44 to 2.56 in
  • Average wingspan
    30 cm
    11.81 in


The mating systems of Sturnira lilium have not been extensively studied. Other phyllostomids do not tend to be promiscuous (Wilkinson and McCracken, 2006). Little yellow-shouldered bats tend to roost individually and the ratio of male testes size to body mass is relatively low, suggesting that sperm competition is not very high between males. Both of these factors decrease the likelihood of promiscuity in S. lilium, but the possibility cannot be ruled out. More research on the mating systems of S. lilium is needed. Reproduction of males corresponds with receptivity in females (Fleming, Hooper, and Wilson, 1972) and adult males secrete a strong scent from their shoulder glands attract a mate. This scent is what gives their fur the yellow coloration on their shoulders (Gannon et al., 1989). (Grzimek, 1990; Fleming, et al., 1972; Gannon, et al., 1989; Wilkinson and McCracken, 2006)

Little yellow-shouldered bats exhibit seasonal, bimodal polyestry (Fleming, Hooper, and Wilson, 1972), reproducing twice a year, once in the dry season and once in the rainy season. There is also a pattern of bimodal peaks in pregnancy and lactation in females bats, but pregnancy has been recorded in every month of the year (Nowak, 1991). Reproductive activity peaks in three periods throughout the year, generally February to June, October, and December (Fleming, Hooper, and Wilson, 1972). The exact length of gestation is unknown, gestation length in other phyllostomids is from four to seven months (Grzimek, 1990). Females give birth to one pup, but births occur twice a year, once towards the end of the dry season and once in the middle-to-late rainy season (Stoner, 2001). Biologists debate whether this seasonal birthing pattern is triggered by food availability or temperature cues (Mello, Kalko, and Silva, 2008). Information birth mass is unavailablebut, phyllostomids have the largest young to maternal mass ratio of any other bat family, with young weighing up to 14% of adult weight at birth (Grzimek, 1990). This larger birth mass is most likely the result of a longer gestation period, allowing for faster post-natal growth of young. Young phyllostomids are born with well developed hind limbs, open eyes, and fur when born. It takes from 5 to 20 weeks to wean young (Kurta and Kunz, 1987). Young phyllostomids tend to become independent 1 month after birth. Juveniles reach sexual or reproductive maturity at 8 to 11 months of age (Fleming, Hooper, and Wilson, 1972). (Fleming, et al., 1972; Gannon, et al., 1989; Grzimek, 1990; Kurta and Kunz, 1987; Mello, et al., 2008; Nowak, 1991; Stoner, 2001)

  • Breeding interval
    Little yellow-shouldered bats breed twice yearly.
  • Breeding season
    Little yellow-shouldered bat reproduction seems to peak at 3 times during the year, although reproduction may occur year-round.
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    4 to 7 months
  • Range weaning age
    5 to 20 weeks
  • Average time to independence
    1 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    8 to 11 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    8 to 11 months

It is unclear whether females use maternity colonies to raise young. Though the young are well developed when born, they must be nursed by their mother for several weeks after birth. Male parental investment has not been documented. Frugivorous bats are more likely than carnivorous or insectivorous bats to carry young while foraging, so it is possible that females carry their young when looking for food (Jones, 2000). (Jones, 2000)

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


Little yellow-shouldered bats live for approximately 20 years in the wild. (Grzimek, 1990)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    20 years


Little yellow-shouldered bats often roost alone, but they can roost in groups as large as 10. It is unclear whether males and females roost together or separately (Evelyn and Stiles, 2003). Little yellow-shouldered bats are nocturnal and relatively inactive during daylight hours. At night they fly through the forest understory, canopy, and open areas. They can fly quickly in open areas but can also maneuver well in dense forests (Jennings et al., 2004). Individuals in high altitudes may migrate to warmer areas during colder months due to a lack of fat reserves and an inability to sustain long periods of torpor (Mello, Kalko, and Silva, 2008). (Evelyn and Stiles, 2003; Jennings, et al., 2004; Mello, et al., 2008)

Home Range

Compared to other South American bats, little yellow-shouldered bats tend to have relatively small ranges. Banding studies show that they roost and forage in the same area for several years at a time (Fleming, Hooper, and Wilson, 1972). (Fleming, et al., 1972)

Communication and Perception

Little yellow-shouldered bats use echolocation to navigate. Because they are frugivorous, their echolocation is not as specialized as bats that feed on insects. They use echolocation frequencies with low duty frequency and four harmonics. Low duty frequencies are excellent for short-range detection (Jennings et al., 2004). Little yellow-shouldered bats, like other bats, use vocalizations in frequencies audible to humans to communicate as well. The reduced horseshoe and spear structures on the noseleaf may suggest that these bats use olfaction to find food (Arita, 1990). Although nocturnal, little yellow-shouldered bats use visual information to evaluate their surroundings. Phyllostomids, including little yellow-shouldered bats, have larger visual centers in their brain compared to other bats, suggesting that vision plays a more significant role in their lives. Their night vision exceeds that of humans, which is a benefit when foraging. The yellow shoulder color of males also suggests that vision is important in sexual selection (Altringham and Fenton, 2006). The spicy smelling pheromones secreted from the shoulders of males are also important forms of chemical communication between potential mates (Gannon et al., 1989; Altringham and Fenton, 2006). (Altringham and Fenton, 2006; Arita, 1990; Gannon, et al., 1989; Jennings, et al., 2004)

Food Habits

Little yellow-shouldered bats are frugivorous. They prefer to eat fruits of plants in the Solanaceae family (nightshade family). When they are unavailable or low in abundance, these bats supplement their diet with fruits of the Piperaceae (pepper) and Cecropiaceae (nettles or cecropias) families (Mello, Kalko, and Silva, 2008). They occasionally drink nectar. Little yellow-shouldered bats begins foraging at dusk and tend to forage in the forest understory (Evelyn and Stiles, 2003). They search for food in shrubs and low trees but also forage at canopy level. They handle understory fruit quickly and canopy fruit slowly. Little yellow-shouldered bats can consume several fruits in a 5 to 15 minute time period. After eating, they pause to digest food, usually excreting within 20 minutes of consumption. They forage for up to 4 hours nightly (Bonaccorso, 1987). (Bonaccorso, 1987; Evelyn and Stiles, 2003; Mello, et al., 2008)

  • Plant Foods
  • fruit
  • nectar


Known predators of S. lilium include humans, snakes, opossums, raptors, monkeys, and spectral bats (Evelyn and Stiles, 2003). Many of these predators are avoided by night foraging. Their dark color helps conceal them during foraging periods and flight is an advantage in escaping non-volant predators. (Evelyn and Stiles, 2003)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Little yellow-shouldered bats are important in the dispersal of seeds of tropical plants, especially those of the Solanaceae family (Mello, Kalko, and Silva, 2008). They are the primary dispersers of seeds of Solanum riparium (Iudica and Bonaccorso, 1997). They are also important pollinators of Mabea fistulifera and other flowering plants (Vieira and Carvalho-Okano, 1994). Their seed dispersal and pollination roles make them important in the regeneration of forests. (Iudica and Bonaccorso, 1997; Mello, et al., 2008; Vieira and Carvalho-Okano, 1994)

Many parasite species use little yellow-shouldered bats as hosts. Endoparasites, such as nematodes, and ectoparasites, such as mites, bat flies, and ticks are all found on this species (Gannon et al., 1989). (Gannon, et al., 1989)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds
  • pollinates
  • creates habitat
Mutualist Species
  • Solanum riparium
  • Mabea fistulifera
Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • nematodes (Capillaria pusilla)
  • nematodes (Filaria serpiculum)
  • nematodes (Litomosoides caliensis)
  • mites (Cameronieta elongatus)
  • mites (Chirnyssoides brasiliensis)
  • mites (Chiroptonyssus haematophagus)
  • mites (Eudusbabekia lepidoseta)
  • mites (Eutrombicula goeldii)
  • mites (Hooperella vesperuginis)
  • mites (Loomisia desmodus)
  • mites (Macronyssus)
  • mites (Microtrombiula sturnirae)
  • mites (Parakosa tadarida)
  • mites (Paralabidocarpus artibei)
  • mites (Parichoronyssus euthysternum)
  • mites (Periglischrus acutisternus)
  • mites (Periglischrus caligus)
  • mites (Periglischrus herrerai)
  • mites (Periglischrus iheringi)
  • mites (Periglischrus ojastii)
  • mites (Periglischrus vargasi)
  • mites (Radfordiella)
  • mites (Trichobioides perspicillatus)
  • bat flies (Aspodoptera delatorrei)
  • bat flies (Aspodoptera falcate)
  • bat flies (Aspodoptera phyllostomatis)
  • bat flies (Exastinion clovisi)
  • bat flies (Megistopoda proxima)
  • ticks (Ornithodoros hasei)
  • ticks (Nycteriglyphus sturnirae)
  • ticks (Ixodes)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

In addition to helping regenerate economically valuable forest habitats, little yellow-shouldered bats and other frugivorous bats have positive impacts on farming and agriculture. They help in the pollination of crops and shade and support trees. Citrus, cocoa, coffee, allspice, mixed vegetation, and live fence vegetation have all been reported to benefit from these bats. Despite their appetite for fruit, farmers report that frugivorous bats such as S. lilium are not destructive to their main crops (Estrada, Coates-Estrada, and Meritt, 1993). (Estrada, et al., 1993)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • pollinates crops

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Little yellow-shouldered bats have few negative impacts on humans. The most notable would be their potential to carry disease and viruses such as rabies, but interactions with humans are rare. (Grzimek, 1990)

Conservation Status

Little yellow-shouldered bats tolerate and adapt to deforestation well compared to other species. They are the most abundant bat species in disturbed forest areas. Deforestation is a concern, however, because of their preference for roosting in large diameter, mature trees that are often harvested first (Evelyn and Stiles, 2003). Neither the IUCN Red List, US Federal List, or CITES suggest S. lilium is a species to be concerned about at this time. (Evelyn and Stiles, 2003; "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species", 2009)


Alexandra Anderson (author), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Chris Yahnke (editor, instructor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.



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.

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


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.


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.


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.


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).


makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds


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

oceanic islands

islands that are not part of continental shelf areas, they are not, and have never been, connected to a continental land mass, most typically these are volcanic islands.


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species


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.


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

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.


lives alone


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.


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


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.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born


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Bonaccorso, F. 1987. Feeding Behavior and Foraging Strategies of Captive Phyllostomid Fruit Bat an Experimental Study. Journal of Animal Ecology, Vol. 56, No. 3: 907-920. Accessed July 26, 2009 at

Estrada, A., R. Coates-Estrada, D. Meritt. 1993. Bat species richness and abundance in tropical rain forest fragments and in agricultural habitats at Los Tuxtlas, Mexico. ECOGRAPHY, Vol. 16, Ed. 4: 309-318. Accessed August 05, 2009 at

Evelyn, M., D. Stiles. 2003. Roosting Requirements of Two Frugivorous Bats (Sturnira lilium and Arbiteus intermedius) in Fragmented Neotropical Forest. BIOTROPICA, Vol. 35, no. 3: 405-418. Accessed July 26, 2009 at

Fleming, T., E. Hooper, D. Wilson. 1972. Three Central American Bat Communities: Structure, Reproductive Cycles, and Movement Patterns. Ecology, Vol. 53, No. 4: 555-569. Accessed July 28, 2009 at

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Iudica, C., F. Bonaccorso. 1997. Feeding of the Bat, Sturnira lilium, on Fruits of Solanum Riparium Influences Dispersal of This Pioneer Tree In Forests of Northwestern Argentina. Studies on Neotropical Fauna & Environment, Vol. 32 Issue 1: 4. Accessed July 26, 2009 at

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Vieira, M., R. Carvalho-Okano. 1994. Pollination biology of Mabea fistulifera (Euphorbiaceae) in southeastern Brazil. Biotropica, Vol. 1 Issue 1: p73-80. Accessed July 26, 2009 at

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Wilson, D., D. Reeder. 2005. "Wilson & Reeder's Mammal Species of the World Third Edition" (On-line). Accessed July 26, 2009 at