The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group. It is a place to note any observations you have made of the world around you. Sun, rain, trees, fish, insects, mollusks, meteorites, climate, birds and/or flowers... all are worthy additions to the bucket. Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment. Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located.
It was my privilege to share occupancy of a small seaside diving-lodge, where I stayed on Roatan Island recently, with a vigorous population of fruit bats. I saw them every day. Mostly they were sleeping in a coconut palm tree, latched onto the underside of leaves in cuddly groups.
It looked like a light sleep, since they periodically spread their wings, yawned and wiggled about.
These were fruit bats, and fed on the abundant tree fruits in the yard of this lodge and elsewhere on the cay.
The classification of these bats is a little confusing, since the bats usually called Fruit Bats actually belong to the sub-order Megachiroptera ("megabats"), which are native only to the "Old World". These bats on Roatan (a species of the genus Artibeus
, in the family of New World Leaf-Nosed Bats) belong to the sub-order Microchiroptera ("microbats"). Microbats, which are worldwide in distribution and much more numerous, are usually described as the Insect-Eating Bats. What can be confusing is that for one thing, not all Insect-Eating Bats eat insects (like these don't), and for another, not all the microbats are smaller than the megabats. So much for generalizations and common names. These bats eat fruit, so it's reasonable to call them fruit bats. But usually that term refers to the ones described in most of this You Tube video, True Facts about the Fruit Bat.
A happy couple of fruit-eating microbats close out the video.
Bats have many fascinating features. Here's a page that describes the adaptive value of several, including how they can sleep without falling, and why their knees bend the opposite direction as ours do.
Some of these fruit bats slept under the roof of the porch instead of the palm leaves. Note the relatively small eyes, typical of microbats, which use echolocation for information more than vision and smell as the megabats mostly do.
The bats here did not cuddle together, but lined up side by side. Here's a view of some more from the front. I think these are males. They also look like they are awake. Why weren't they under the palm leaves with the others? Not sure. I've read bats often roost in gender groups, or a male with his harem of females. Perhaps these are bachelors?
At dusk the bats woke up and went to work, swooping through the yard, fluttering their delicate skin wings, at great speed. Too fast to photograph, almost too fast to see, but I never felt a wingbrush as they flew past me. On my way to dinner one evening I tried to catch an image. You may be able to see a blur between the windows.
The lodge had a variety of trees with fruits for them to feed on. Sea almond
) was one kind.
The Noni trees
) were another.
Some unidentified white fruit littered the ground. The yard of the lodge had a canopy of fruit trees, plenty of food to go around.
The locals said breeding season was coming up in August, and that's when it would get really busy with the bats. Even this quiet time was a real treat for me. Bats are remarkable and beautiful creatures, which I don't see that often.
Bats are crucially important in healthy ecosystems. In our temperate lands we know their critical role as insect feeders. Many flowering plants in the tropics and subtropics depend on fruit bats for pollination and seed dispersal. But bat populations are threatened more than ever, worldwide, by habitat loss, disturbance by people, fast-spreading disease, wind-turbines, and they are hunted for food. So the presence of bats anywhere is a real gift.
Any bats in your neighborhood? Pollinators, seed dispersers or insect eaters of any kind? What's happening in nature in your backyard?