The only surviving member of the genusPhyllops, the Cuban fig-eating bat (Phyllops falcatus) is a little-known, foliage-roosting bat of the northern Caribbean. This medium-sized bat has a broad noseleaf that ends in a pointed tip, short rounded ears and a thick, pinkish tragus, but lacks a tail. The fur is dense, silky and greyish-brown on the underparts, but darker on the upperparts. Each individual hair is mostly tricolored, with dark grey or brown tips, dark bases and a pale middle band. The facial skin is brown, there is a small white patch of fur on each shoulder and there is another small patch of white just behind the ears. The female Cuban fig-eating bat is larger than the male.
The Cuban fig-eating bat is similar to the Jamaican fruit-eating bat (Artibeus jamaicensis), but may be distinguished by the lack of stripes on its face and by its smaller size (2)(3).
An enigmatic mammal, almost nothing is known about the biology and behaviour of the Cuban fig-eating bat. It is thought to be a fairly sociable species, roosting in the shadowy parts of foliage in small groups of three to five. It is possible that the males and females roost separately and that during the breeding season the males gather a harem of females, as indicated by a sex ratio skewed towards females. Mating may occur several times throughout the year (2)(4).
The Cuban fig-eating bat feeds on the fruit of wild native fig trees (1).
The Cuban fig-eating bat is native to Cuba, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and the Cayman Islands, where it is known from Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac. An individual was also recently captured in the southern keys of Florida, but it is likely that this individual was an accidental visitor there (1)(2)(3).
Generally inhabiting lowlands up to elevations of around 700 metres, the Cuban fig-eating bat has been recorded in a variety of forested environments including evergreen, sub-montane, pine, and semi-deciduous forest. It has also been found in plantations and gardens around urban areas (1)(2)(3).
While the Cuban fig-eating bat has been tentatively assessed as not being threatened with extinction, the exact status of this species is unclear and much debated. Some scientists have described this species as having a wide distribution across Cuba with a tolerance to human disturbance, but others have suggested that it is uncommon compared to other bats in the region and that it is scarcely found away from natural habitat. The Cuban fig-eating bat is also only found on islands that are under severe threat from deforestation, meaning populations of this species should be carefully monitored (2).
A plant that sheds its leaves at the end of the growing season.
A plant which retains leaves all year round. This is in contrast to deciduous plants, which completely lose their leaves for part of the year.
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
Forest occurring in the montane zone, a zone of cool upland slopes below the tree line dominated by large evergreen trees.
A fleshy structure surrounding the nose, common to many bats. It is believed to function in focusing echolocation calls (high-pitched calls used in orientation and to locate prey) emitted from the nose.
A soft cartilaginous projection extending in front of the external opening of the ear. In bats, it plays an important role in filtering returning echoes in echolocation.
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