MEGACHIROPTERA (Megabats)
includes Flying-foxes, Tube-nosed Fruit Bats and Blossom Bats

These are fruit and nectar eating bats which navigate and find food principally by sight and smell. The largest is Pteropus giganteus found in India, Pakistan and Burma and weighs up to 1.6kg with a wingspan of 1.7m. It is argued that megabats may have evolved from a primate ancestor, but the jury is still out on this one! Briefly, the major points of debate are:

  • That Flying-fox young are born fully furred and with their eyes open
  • Visionary pathways in Flying-foxes are identical to primates, as is the retractable tail bone in the foetus
  • Flying-foxes are highly intelligent animals which is also another key factor in the theory of their link to primates

Megabats play a very important role in pollination and seed dispersal of our native forest species. Deforestation along with direct culling has resulted in a major decline in Flying-fox populations to a point where some species are listed as "Vulnerable". The long-term effect this in turn has on our native forests is likely to be a negative one. Prior to May 2003, Queensland had one of the highest rates of land clearing on the planet (an average of 500,000 hectares per year). Environmental costs were catastrophic: species decline, dryland salinity, degradation of river systems and significant greenhouse gas production. Scientists calculated that land clearing killed more than 100 million birds, mammals and reptiles each year in Queensland (reference: 2005 Annual Hawke lecture, A sustainable planet - a future for Australia - Delivered by Greg Bourne, CEO, WWF-Australia).

In Australia, we have 13 species of Megachiroptera, eight of which are Flying-foxes. In South-east Queensland, we encounter three species of Flying-foxes:

  • Grey-headed Flying-fox - Pteropus poliocephalus
  • Black Flying-fox - Pteropus alecto
  • Little Red Flying-fox - Pteropus scapulatus

little red

 

Grey-headed Flying-fox        Baby Black Flying-fox          Little Red Flying-fox

Occasionally we also encounter the Eastern Tube-nosed Bat (Nyctimene robinsoni) and the Queensland Blossom Bat (Syconycteris australis):


Tube Nose Bat blossom bat
Tube-nosed Bat                                        Blossom Bat                                         --by Les Hall

 

Flying-foxes are placental mammals. They are warm-blooded, deliver a furred (except for abdomen and under the chin) open-eyed baby and suckle their young. Twins are very rare. The gestation period is approximately 7 months and P.poliocephalus and P.alecto are born from late September through to November. The P.scapulatus are born in May and June.

The baby has oversized feet and an extra little hook on the thumbhook and toenails to aid in clinging to its mother. By also latching on to mother's teat located in her 'wing pit', the baby is carried very securely for the first several weeks of it's life.

From birth until 5-6 weeks old, the baby does not have the ability to control its own body temperature. This is called thermoregulation. By clinging to its mother and being wrapped in her wings, the baby is kept warm and secure. The mother also keeps her baby scrupulously clean, using her tongue to lick and groom. Flying-Foxes live in large groups called colonies or camps while the Blossom Bats and Tube-nosed Bats are more solitary animals.