There are many insect eating bats in Australasia, most are small (some are tiny!). The smallest insect eating bats in Australasia weigh about 3 grams - that is about 1 tenth of a mouse! Insect eating bats belong to a group of bats called 'microbats' which find their way through the dark by using 'echolocation', listening to the echoes from their high pitched calls. These calls are usually well above the range of human hearing so we can't hear them, but some species like the White-striped Freetail bat can be heard by humans.
They feed on a range of insects including many pest species. They also can slow their bodies down and go into torpor (kind of like a mini hibernation) to save energy when it is cold or when they're inactive during the day. They can live a very long time for such small animals, sometimes more than 30 years.
Fruit and nectar eating bats belong to a group of bats called 'megabats' which generally don't use echolocation to navigate. These bats have large eyes and a good sense of smell that they use to find their food, fruits and nectar from flowering plants.
Some larger fruit and nectar eating bats are called 'flying foxes', because their faces look a little like a fox, but they are actually not very closely related to foxes at all. Some flying foxes can fly very long distances. For example, the Tongan flying fox has a huge range dotted accross islands throughout the South Pacific.
Fruit and nectar eating bats
Unique habits of Australasian bats
Photo credits: Adam Lawrence Slater, Sharlene Kemp, Bruce Thomson, Jack Pettigrew, Michael Pennay, Simon Davis, Fernando Penna, Tom Martin, Paul Hocksenar, Damian Steer. All rights reserved by the photographer.
There are many very interesting and unique habits of bats in Australasia. Here are just a few examples:
- The New Zealand Lesser Short-tailed Bat actually spends much of its time scurrying on the ground in search of food rather than hunting on the wing.
- A small blossom bat from Papua New Guinea has the scientific name Syconycteris hobbit after the famous J.R.R. Tolkein hobbit characters. It lives in moss forests and has hairy toes like its fictional namesake.
- The Large-footed Myotis aka the fishing bat, has very long toes which it uses to catch small fish and aquatic invertebrates from the surface of water bodies.
- The Golden-tipped Bat has a very specialised lifestyle, hunting spiders in the night. It finds them by using its 'sonar' and carefully plucking them from their webs.
- There are many species of tube-nosed bats that have long tubular nostrils which are believed to help the bats breath like a snorkel when they are eating juicy fruits!
- Most bats vocalise like us through their mouths, but horseshoe and leafnosed bats make their echolocation calls through their noses.
- The Ghost Bat, a large almost white carnivorous bat, feeds on small animals like rodents, frogs, birds and even other bats!
- Wallaces' Striped-faced Fruit Bat is known to have lived in Australia tens of thousands of years ago from ancient Aboriginal rock art. It is now only found in Sulawesi and the eastern islands of Indonesia.
- Long-eared bats hunt moths by stealth, whispering when echolocating and listening for the wing flutters of moths to catch them by surprise.