The Madagascan flying fox is a species of megabat and is the largest bat in Madagascar. They are brown in color with golden to reddish-brown areas on their chest and shoulders. The head of these bats is yellowish in color, and the wings are slate-grey to black in color. Both sexes look alike, but males are slightly bigger in size than females.
Madagascan flying foxes are native to Madagascar and are found in all parts of the island except the central highland region. They live in subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.
Madagascan flying foxes are nocturnal creatures. During the day they roost in large trees in colonies of up to 1000 individuals although 400 is more common. These bats are noisy and easily disturbed, and if roused, the whole colony may move off to an alternative roost site. Most roosts are located in isolated trees in degraded areas. Madagascan flying foxes are territorial only during the breeding season when dominant males establish territories on the roost tree which they guard against other males. Females roost within these male territories. Outside the breeding season, territories are usually not maintained, however, bats try to roost in the same place. Dominant males also establish feeding territories on preferable feeding trees and can travel up to 50 km from the roost site to get food. In order to communicate with each Madagascan flying foxes use scent and sound to distinguish other roost members or produce squawks, male whinny/female whinny, chatters, and honks. Males also mark their territories with scents and use scent cues in females during the breeding season.
It is suggested that Madagascan flying foxes are either polygynous (one male mates with multiple females) or polygynandrous (promiscuous) (both males and females have multiple partners). They breed Breeding from April to May. Females give birth to a single pup, sometimes twins after the gestation period that lasts around 100-150 days. Mothers nurse their young during 4-5 months and after reaching independence young bats usually stay in the groups they were born in. Madagascan flying foxes become reproductively mature when they are 1.5-2 years old.
The biggest threat to Madagascan flying foxes threat is hunting for bushmeat. Under Madagascar law, hunting this species is only permitted from May to August. They are targeted at their roosting sites and at the trees where they feed, and the harvesting in many areas is believed to be unsustainable. They are hunted both for food and also commercially. These bats also suffer from loss of habitat as woodland is converted to agricultural land.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of Madagascan flying foxes is 300,000 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.
Due to their foraging habits, Madagascan flying bats play a very important role as seed dispersers in the ecosystem they live. When they squeeze the juice out of fruits many seeds are swallowed and dispersed to other areas as they pass through the animal's gut. These bats also pollinate certain trees throughout their home range.