Honduran White Bat

Honduran White Bat

Caribbean white tent-making bat

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Genus
SPECIES
Ectophylla alba
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
20 yrs
WEIGHT
5-6 g
LENGTH
37-47 mm

The Honduran white bat is a unique species of bat native to Central America. It has distinctive, entirely white fur, which is only found in six of the roughly 1,300 known species of bat. Its ears, tragi (the cartilaginous projections in front of the ear openings), nose-leaf, and lips are a bright, yellowish-orange. The nose-leaf also has a serrated margin. The Honduran white bat also has eight to ten small "warts" under its mouth.

Distribution

Honduran white bats are found in several countries in Central America, including Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. They prefer wet evergreen forests and secondary forests, which can accommodate their specific roosting and dietary requirements.

Honduran White Bat habitat map

Geography

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Honduran white bats are nocturnal creatures. They construct "tents" out of understory plant leaves by strategically cutting the leaf ribs with their teeth and roost in these tents during the day. The bats cling to the roof of their tent in small colonies of 1-15 individuals. The tent protects them from rain and predators. Rather than roosting in a single tent consistently, Honduran white bats have a network of tents scattered across the forest and alternate among these tents for roosting. Although their tents are typically low to the ground, sunlight filters through the leaf and gives the white fur of these bats a greenish cast. This almost completely conceals them if they remain still. Alternately, it has been proposed that their white fur gives these bats the appearance of a wasp nest, which would be avoided by predators. Honduran white bats are generally silent and communicate with each other visually and through touch.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Honduran white bats are herbivores (frugivores). They feed almost exclusively on figs but they can consume other fruits as well.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
May-August
PREGNANCY DURATION
3 weeks
BABY CARRYING
1 pup
INDEPENDENT AGE
3-4 weeks
FEMALE NAME
female
MALE NAME
male
BABY NAME
pup

Honduran white bats are polygynous and in a roost one male mates with several females. Their breeding season takes place between May and August. Females have synchronized births, with all births in a colony occurring within the same week. Each female gives birth to a single pup after the gestation period of about 3 weeks. During lactation, mothers return to their roosts up to 6 times a night to feed their pups. The young usually start to fly when they are 3-4 weeks old.

Population

Population threats

The main threats to Honduran white bats include the conversion of their native habitat to farmland as well as an expanding human population. These little creatures are particularly susceptible to habitat loss because they are highly specialized on a single species of fig for their food source.

Population number

The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Honduran white bat total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The Honduran white bat is the only member in its genus. Its scientific name "Ectophylla" is from Ancient Greek "ektós" meaning "out" and "phúllon" meaning "leaf," referring to its nose-leaf. The name name "alba" comes from Latin "albus" and means "white."
  • The yellow-orange pigmentation of the nose-leaf, ears and lips of these bats is due to large concentrations of carotenoids. They take the pigments from their diet, particularly the fruits of the Ficus colubrinae tree. The Honduran white bat is the first mammal known to have enough carotenoids in its skin to produce visible skin coloration.
  • In 2019 another study found that the distinctive yellow pigment may have evolved as a result of Honduran white bats' tent-roosting.
  • The Honduran white bat is one of the two smallest species of frugivorous bat in the world. The other one is the Little white-shouldered bat.
  • Honduran white bats appear to use scent to identify their preferred food sources. Their "nose-leaf" is thought to serve some role in modifying and directing the echolocation call.

References

1. Honduran White Bat on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honduran_white_bat
2. Honduran White Bat on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/7030/22027138

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