A little-known bat of the Caribbean, the Antillean fruit-eating bat (Brachyphylla cavernarum) has a distinctive, conical-shaped snout with flattened nostrils, giving it a somewhat pig-like appearance (2)(3). This enigmatic mammal also has a V-shaped grooved bordered by tubercles on the lower lip, small, naked ears, and a fairly well-developed tail membrane, which fully encloses the miniscule tail (2)(3). The fur on the upperparts of the Antillean fruit-eat bat is largely ivory-yellow with dark brown tips, except for patches on the neck, shoulders and sides which are yellow (2)(4). There is also a distinct, triangular patch of blackish-grey, greyish-brown or dark brown fur on the top of the head stretching to the middle of the back, which varies in size between individual bats (4).
During the day, the Antillean fruit-eating bat dwells in large, tightly-packed roosts where it grooms and nurses infants in-between short periods of sleep. Around an hour after sunset it emerges en mass from these roosts to forage, and returns in a similar fashion just before dawn (4). It forages close to the ground for fallen fruits or in the canopy of trees for flowers, pollen and insects, as well as fruit (1)(4). When feeding on flowers, it surrounds the flower-parts with its mouth and extends its tongue to lap up the nectar (4). Fruit is typically picked up and carried to another tree where it is consumed, with the dry pulp discarded by shakes of the head (4)(5). The Antillean fruit-eating bat is known for being quite hostile to other bats and is particularly aggressive when feeding, regularly hitting and biting one another when competition for feeding space is greatest (2).
Very little is known about the reproductive biology of the Antillean fruit-eating bat, although some females within a colony on Saint Croix were observed to give birth within a three-week period between late May and early June (1)(2)(4). At this time, the colony consists almost entirely of mothers and their single young, suggesting the females separate from the males around the breeding season. During the first few weeks of life, the young bats sleep, groom and feed, and do not fly until two months of age (4).
The Antillean fruit-eating bat occurs in the Caribbean where it ranges from Puerto Rico and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, throughout the Lesser Antilles, south to Saint Vincent and Barbados (1). It is known to occur on at least 13 of the 19 major islands within its range (3).
The Antillean fruit-eating bat may be found in a variety of different habitats, including both dry and moist forest. It is primarily a cave-dwelling species, although it has been observed in areas where caves are absent, suggesting it also uses other types of roosts such as disused buildings (1)(2)(5). A colony on Saint Croix, for example, used a large well that was exposed to direct sunlight as a roost, but this behaviour is not thought to be typical of the species as it prefers open, well-ventilated roosts that are dimly lit or in total darkness, such as the darkest recesses of caves (3).
One of the most common species of fruit-eating bat in the region (3), there is not thought to be any major threats to the Antillean fruit-eating bat (1). It is also thought to be more resistant to hurricane damage (a frequent disturbance in the Caribbean) than other bats, which typically suffer greatly from habitat destruction after such an event, as its varied diet allows it feed on the fruits of hardy plants that survived the damage as well as insects (6)(7).
Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
Gannon, M.R., Kurta, A., Rodríguez-Durán, A. and Willig, M.R. (2005) Bats of Puerto Rico. Texas Tech University Press, Lubbock, Texas.
Swanepoel, P. and Genoways, H.H. (1983) Brachyphylla cavernarum. Mammalian Species, 205: 1-6.
Nellis, D.W. (1971) Additions to the natural history of Brachyphylla (Chiroptera). Caribbean Journal of Science, 11: 1-2.
Pedersen, S.C., Genoways, H.H. and Freeman, P.W. (1996) Notes on bats from Montserrat (Lesser Antilles) with comments concerning the effects of Hurricane Hugo. Caribbean Journal of Science, 32: 206-213.
Felming, T.H. and Racey, P.A. (2009) Island Bats: Evolution, Ecology and Conservation. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
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