Bat, Straw-Colored Fruit
Bats species out number those of all other mammals except rodents. Bats are classified in two suborders, megachiroptera, or large bats, and microchiroptera, or small bats. The straw-colored fruit bat is a megachiroptera, typically very large, about 5 to 8 inches (130 to 210 mm) in length.
The neck and back are yellow-brown (hence, the name of straw-color), but the underside fur is a darker brown color. The wings are long and narrow, with a span of as much as 30 inches, allowing the bats to fly long distances. The bat has a long snout like a dog, large eyes, and it is popularly referred to as a flying fox. The male bat resembles the female but is slightly larger.
Class: Mammal (Mammalia)
Range: Common in central Africa, but can migrate to all of Africa, Arabian peninsula south of the Sahara Desert and Madagascar
Habitat: Forest and savanna regions, in trees, caves and protected areas to elevations of 7000 feet
Lifespan: 15 years in wild, 20 in captivity
Wild Diet: Flowers, fruits and fruit juices
Zoo Diet: Bananas, orange juice, diced orange and cottage cheese mixed with primate diet
Straw-colored fruit bats occupy a wide range of habitats. They are a very social animal, and roost in colonies, typically in trees, numbering over 100,000 individuals. Typically the fruit bat does not echolocate. The bat is nocturnal, and it seeks food at night, using its excellent senses of sight and smell. These fruit bats have a peculiar habit of chewing on soft wood, probably to obtain water and moisture.
The straw-colored fruit bat reaches sexual maturity at about 18 months of age. Mating occurs from April to June, but implantation of the embryo for development in the uterus is delayed to ensure birth of the single pup during September to October. This takes advantage of the rainy season, for the mating and birth processes, when food is more abundant. The female gives parental care, nursing her offspring until it is ready to forage on its own.
Gestation: 9 months total, but embryonic development is only 4 to 5 months
- The straw-colored fruit bat is both a boon and a pest to humans. The bats are valuable in aiding the pollination of many tropical fruits. Conversely, the huge colonies of bats destroy large quantities of valuable fruit, particularly dates. The bat's habit of chewing on soft wood can kill many palm trees.
- Humans in some regions (Zaire and West Africa) eat these bats.
- Bats perch by locking tendons in their feet, enabling the bat to hook onto surfaces while sleeping or relaxed. Unhooking requires expending energy.