Spectacled Flying Fox
Spectacled fruit bat, Spectacled bat
The Spectacled flying foxes are large, black colored bats. These animals exhibit conspicuous, yellow bands, surrounding their eyes and giving them the nickname 'Spectacled Bats'. Meanwhile, due to their fruit-based diet, these animals are also known as 'Spectacled Fruit Bat'. They exhibit yellow mantle, covering their back, shoulders and neck. However, the color pattern differs among individuals: some have more yellowish tint in their coat, whereas some are noticeably paler. The Spectacled flying foxes perceive their environment through a highly-developed vision and sense of smell.
Endemic mainly to Australia, these bats occur in north-eastern parts of Queensland. Populations also exist in Papua New Guinea as well as on the offshore islands such as Woodlark Island, Alcester Island, Kiriwina, and Indonesian island Halmahera. Preferred habitat of Spectacled flying foxes is primary and secondary growth tropical rainforest. They typically use dead trees or trees with stripped off foliage as roosting sites.
Habits and lifestyle
Spectacled flying foxes display highly social behavior, forming groups known as camps. A single camp of this species may contain as much as tens of thousands of bats. They spend very little time sleeping. The daytime hours are typically spent in these camps, located in the upper canopy of the forest. When socializing in these large groups, Spectacled flying foxes make a lot of noise, which is heard from afar. Their roosting sites are typically situated in areas with enough food, shelter and roosting space. At dusk, the bats leave their camps to forage, often flying long distances of up to 43 miles (70 kilometers) per night. Spectacled flying foxes drink both fresh and salt water, which they do by flying over the water's surface while skimming required amount of water.
cloud, colony, flock
Diet and nutrition
Spectacled flying foxes generally maintain frugivorous diet, consisting of citrus, mango, Northern Bloom wood and Apple Box. These animals may also raid orchards on occasion.
Spectacled flying foxes normally display monogamous mating system, where each individual has only one mate per season. However, when a female doesn't yield offspring, her mate will leave to breed with other females, thus exhibiting polygynous breeding. The mating season lasts from March to May. Females come to the breeding areas before males, who arrive later, defining territorial boundaries of their family. Gestation period lasts for 7 months, during which males and females roost separately as well as maintain separate territories. Females produce a single baby per year. The newborn bat is nursed by its mother for about 5 months. After weaning, young bats gather in groups in special nursery trees. The age of reproductive maturity is 2 years old in females and 3 - 4 years old in males.
Notable threats to the population of Spectacled flying foxes include frequent disturbance in nursing colonies, infestation with paralysis tick as well as fatal collisions with barbed-wire fences or power lines. Due to occasionally raiding orchards, these bats are commonly persecuted throughout their range. They are electrocuted and directly killed in orchards and at their colony sites. Population in New Guinea currently suffers from hunting for their meat and logging of coastal forests, which are the natural habitat of this species. On the other hand, those in Australia face loos of their habitat as a result of urban development as well as alteration of coastal and upland forest to pastureland and crops such as sugar.
According to the Australian Government Department of the Environment, the total population of the Spectacled flying foxes’ is around 80,000 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers remain stable.
Due to their diet and travelling habits, Spectacled flying foxes act as important seed dispersers and pollinators of many plant species, thus benefiting the local ecosystem and contributing to regeneration of native forests.
Fun facts for kids
- During the night, a group of Spectacled flying foxes leaves its home range to look for food. These animals fly long distances to reach so-called nursery trees, returning to their colonies only by the morning.
- A group of Spectacled flying foxes is referred to as a flock.
- These bats are known as active seed dispersers of their range. Thus, a single individual of this species will disperse as much as 60,000 seeds during one night.
- When taking their night trip, these bats usually fly at a speed of 25 - 30 km per hour. However, they may speed up to 50 km per hour, when using fair wind.
- It takes about 20 minutes the meal to get from their mouth to the rear.
- Bats are the only flying mammals.
- Flying foxes are classified as mega-bats, as a reference to their large size. Due to their frugivorous diet, these animals are otherwise called 'Fruit bats'.
- As opposed to smaller, insect-eating bats, these animals perceive their environment through a well-developed sense of hearing and vision rather than using echolocation. These nocturnal animals see as well as cats at night. Additionally, they are as intelligent as cats.