Aldabra flying fox (Pteropus aldabrensis)
|Spanish:||Zorro Volador De Aldabra|
|Size||Forearm length: 130 – 141 mm (2)|
Ear length: 30 – 35 mm (2)
Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).
The Aldabra flying fox is one of only four mammals found on Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles (4). Its fur is pale brown on the back, with an abundant scattering of silvery-grey hairs. The underparts are yellowish-buff or a warm orange (2). Like other flying foxes, named for their fox-like faces, this species has relatively long and narrow wings that enable fast and efficient flight (5).
Occurs only on Aldabra Atoll (6), a coral atoll that sits in the Mozambique Channel, 680 kilometres east of the East African mainland, and measures 34 kilometres long by 14.5 kilometres wide. The atoll comprises four main islands and numerous smaller islets, surrounding a large shallow lagoon (4).
The habitat of Aldabra Atoll consists of mangroves fringing the central lagoon, groves of Casuarina trees on the seaward rim, and dense, shrubby vegetation covering the rest of the atoll (7).
The Aldabra flying fox is a nocturnal bat that spends the daylight hours roosting in tall trees. At night, this fruit bat emerges to feed on the flesh of fruits from plants such as Terminalia catappa (tropical almond), Cocos nucifera (coconut palm) and Ficus (fig) and Agave species (6) (8). By feeding on fruits, the flying fox unintentionally carries out a number of vital services for some of the plants: pollination, as pollen grains can become attached to the bat whilst feeding, and seed dispersion, as ingested seeds are excreted a distance from the parent plant (5).
The Aldabra flying fox needs to supplement this low protein fruit diet with other sources of protein, such as pollen, insects, buds and leaves. In addition, it has been reported feeding on excrete from coccoids (scale insects and mealybugs). Coccoids feed on the sap of woody shrubs and trees and excrete a sugary waste called ‘honeydew’. It is this honeydew that the flying fox has been seen licking from the leaves of fig trees, possibly providing an important source of protein during the dry season, when other protein sources may be scarce (9).
The flying foxes of Aldabra are reportedly strong, slow fliers, and have been observed a long way out to sea (8). The Aldabra flying fox has been observed mating in October, November, March and June, and females have been recorded carrying young in December and January (6).
The small, but apparently healthy, population of Aldabra flying foxes is not currently known to be facing any threats, but the tiny distribution of this species makes it incredibly vulnerable to any catastrophic event, whether caused by humans, such as the introduction of a predator to the atoll, or by nature, such as the potentially devastating effects of a cyclone (6).
Aldabra Atoll is well protected, being designated a Special Reserve in 1976 and a World Heritage Site in 1982 (4). The atoll is only inhabited by a small number of scientists, and so the natural habitat is largely unaffected by the threats and pressures usually associated with human habitation. The sustained protection of the Aldabra Atoll is essential for the continued precarious existence of the Aldabra flying fox (6).
For further information on the conservation of bats see:
- Lubee Bat Conservancy:
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- Nocturnal: active at night.
- Pollination: the transfer of pollen grains from the stamen (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) of a flowering plant. This usually leads to fertilisation, the development of seeds and, eventually, a new plant.
IUCN Red List (December, 2009)