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|Rodrigues Fruit Bat
One of the world's largest bats, the Rodrigues fruit bat is 5 to 7 inches long, has a wingspan of 3 feet and weighs approximately 13 ounces. It is thickly furred, with most of the coat being dark chestnut brown in color. A mantle of golden brown hair covers the head, neck, and shoulders. Both sexes look alike, although males may be slightly larger than females.
Distribution and Habitat
This bat is only found on Rodrigues, a tiny island (about 55 square miles in area) in the southwest Indian Ocean, where it inhabits what was once a very lush tropical forest.
Males maintain harems of up to 8 females.
Rodrigues bats typically give birth just once per year. One baby is born after a gestation period of about 150 days. The mother gives birth hanging right side up by her wing claws, using her tail flap to catch her baby. Occasionally other females may help her to deliver the baby.
The baby is born blind, naked, and with underdeveloped wings. It can cling to the mother's fur even when she flies. It can fly at 3 to 4 months, is weaned at about 6 months, and leaves its mother at about 1 year.
As do other fruit bats, the Rodrigues feeds primarily on fruit juice. It prefers guavas, mangoes, bananas, papaya, figs, and breadfruit, and is particularly fond of ripe tamarind pods. They crush the fruit in their mouths, swallow the juice and pulp, and then spit out the seeds and skin. It will also eat flowers, nectar, pollen and sometimes leaves and bark.
The Rodrigues flies well, but lands badly. Some bats try to catch a branch with their feet as they fly by but they often miss and crash land instead. Often a Rodrigues bat will simply climb between trees, using connecting branches or vines, rather than risk a potentially hazardous landing. They have large claws on their hind feet to help with climbing.
Other Habits and Behaviors
These bats are nocturnal. Females normally roost in groups, while males roost by themselves. A group may roost in the same tree for many generations. There is a dominance heirarchy among males.
Like other island animals, Rodrigues bats are especially vulnerable because their native habitat is small to begin with. Less than 2% of the bats' original forest habitat remains, making this one of the rarest mammals on earth. At its lowest point in 1974, there were only 70 Rodrigues bats known to still be in the wild. Captive breeding and conservation efforts have helped restore the population to some degree, but the deforestation of their native habitat has left the wild population extremely vulnerable to almost any future environmental change.
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This page was last updated on June 27, 2017.