Egyptian fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus)

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Egyptian fruit bat, head detail
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Egyptian fruit bat fact file

Egyptian fruit bat description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderChiroptera
FamilyPteropodidae
GenusRousettus (1)

Originally described from a specimen from the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt (4), the Egyptian fruit bat is a relatively large, robust bat with a short tail, a fox-like face, noticeably large eyes, and dark, rounded, naked ears (2) (3) (4) (5) (6). The fine, sleek fur varies in colour from greyish-brown to dark brown, lighter on the belly, and often with a pale yellow or orange collar around the neck (2) (4) (5) (7). The wings have rounded tips and are dark brown in colour, becoming lighter brown in more northerly parts of the range, and the wing membrane itself attaches to the first toe of the foot. The fur, which is longer on the forehead and upper parts of the body, extends onto the tops of the forearms and legs, and slightly onto the wing membrane (2) (4). The male Egyptian fruit bat is substantially larger than the female (3) (7). Up to six subspecies are recognised (1) (2) (4) (6).

Also known as
Egyptian rousette.
Synonyms
Pteropus aegyptiacus, Pteropus egyptiacus, Rousettus egyptiacus.
Size
Total length: 11 - 19 cm (2)
Tail length: 0.6 - 2.5 cm (2)
Forearm length: 8 - 10 cm (2)
Wingspan: up to 60 cm (2)
Weight
ca. 81 - 171 g (2) (3)
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Egyptian fruit bat biology

Rousettus species form the largest colonies of any fruit bats (9), with those of the Egyptian fruit bat often numbering up to several thousand individuals, or even up to 50,000 in some cases (1) (2) (3). The bats crowd close together in the roost, chattering noisily, and fights often break out (2) (3) (4) (5). Rousettus species have excellent vision and smell, and, uniquely among fruit bats, also use a rudimentary form of echolocation, producing tongue clicks which are audible to humans (2) (3) (6) (9). The Egyptian fruit bat feeds on a variety of soft fruits, as well as flowers, pollen and some leaves (1) (2) (6) (7) (10). Fruit can be temporarily stored in cheek pouches (4), or taken to nearby trees to consume (8), and, like other fruit bats, the Egyptian fruit bat is likely to be an important plant pollinator and seed disperser (3) (9).

The Egyptian fruit bat typically has two breeding cycles each year, although most females breed in only one, the timing depending on the location (2) (3) (6). During the breeding season, the females form nursery colonies with the young, while males tend to form separate groups (2) (4). The female Egyptian fruit bat gives birth to a single young, or occasionally twins, after a gestation period of around four months (2) (3) (6), the young bat being born with folded ears and closed eyes, and clinging to the female for the first few weeks. The eyes open and ears erect at about ten days, and after the first six weeks the infant is left at the roost while the female forages, taking its first flight when about 63 to 70 days old (2) (3) (4). The male Egyptian fruit bat usually reaches sexual maturity at 14 to 18 months, and the female at 15 to 16 months, although some females start to breed from 7 to 8 months (3) (6). Lifespan in captivity may be up to 25 years (2).

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Egyptian fruit bat range

The Egyptian fruit bat has a wide but rather patchy distribution across sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, the Mediterranean, Arabian Peninsula and Middle East, and into southwest Asia (1) (2) (3) (4) (5). Rousettus aegyptiacus aegyptiacus is found in Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Cyprus; R. a. arabicus in eastern Ethiopia, Iran, southern Arabia and Pakistan; R. a. leachi across parts of northern, eastern and southern Africa; and R. a. unicolor from Senegal and Gambia, east to Cameroon and south to Angola (1) (6). R. a. princeps is endemic to Principe Island in the Gulf of Guinea, and R. a. tomensis to the island of São Tomé (1). The species may migrate in parts of its range (1) (2) (3) (4).

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Egyptian fruit bat habitat

The Egyptian fruit bat inhabits a variety of habitats, from arid to tropical areas (1) (2), but is reliant on an adequate supply of fruit trees and on suitable roosting sites (1) (4) (8). Unlike most other fruit bats, the Egyptian fruit bat roosts in caves, as well as similar man-made structures, such as underground irrigation tunnels, ruins, tombs, mines and military bunkers (1) (2) (6). The species has been recorded from elevations of up to 4,000 metres (1).

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Egyptian fruit bat status

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Egyptian fruit bat threats

Although still abundant and widespread (1), the Egyptian fruit bat faces a number of threats. The species is considered a pest by many fruit farmers, despite research suggesting that only small amounts of the diet consist of commercially grown fruits (10), and that commercial fruit is usually picked before it is ripe, and so is unattractive to bats (11). Despite this, cave roosts are often fumigated or destroyed, or the bats poisoned (1) (5) (6) (7) (11). The Egyptian fruit bat is also hunted for food in parts of Africa (1), and is shot in some areas (6) (11). Further conflict with humans is caused when bat droppings accumulate on the walls of buildings (5) (6). Other threats to this species include deforestation, and pressure from increasing tourism to caves (6). Subspecies R. a. arabicus is now considered rare (3) (6).

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Egyptian fruit bat conservation

The Egyptian fruit bat occurs in a number of protected areas (1), such as Carmel Nature Reserve in Israel, Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, and Kruger National Park in South Africa, amongst others (6). It is also protected under a range of international legislation (12) (13). Specific conservation measures recommended for the Egyptian fruit bat include enforcement of protection, in particular preventing the fumigation of caves, as well as education campaigns (1) (6). Where this bat is persecuted, it should be established whether or not the species is responsible for substantial damage to fruit or trees, and alternative control measures should be provided if appropriate (6) (10). For example, fruit crops can be netted, or ‘sonic scarers’ used to deter bats from the crop (10). With effective protection of the species and its habitat, and a control on illegal culling, it is hoped that there will be a more secure future for this large, charismatic bat (11).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi is a principal sponsor of ARKive. EAD is working to protect and conserve the environment as well as promoting sustainable development in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
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Find out more

To find out more about the conservation of this and other bat species see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk
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Glossary

Echolocation
Detecting objects by reflected sound. Used by bats and odontocete cetaceans (toothed whales, dolphins and porpoises) for orientation and to detect and locate prey.
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Gestation
The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
Pollinator
An animal that in the act of visiting a plant’s flowers transfers 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.
Subspecies
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2009)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Kwiecinski, G.G. and Griffiths, T.A. (1999) Rousettus egyptiacus. Mammalian Species, 611: 1 - 9.
  3. Nowak, R.M. (1991) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
  4. Alsharhan, A et al. (2008) Terrestrial Environment of Abu Dhabi Emirate. Environment Agency, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
  5. Skinner, J.D. and Chimimba, C.T. (2005) The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion. Third Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  6. Mickleburgh, S.P., Hutson, A.M. and Racey, P.A. (1992) Old World Fruit Bats: An Action Plan for their Conservation. IUCN/SSC Chiroptera Specialist Group, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. Available at:
    http://data.iucn.org/dbtw-wpd/html/Old%20world%20fruit%20bats/cover.html
  7. Albayrak, I., Aşan, N. and Yorulmaz, T. (2008) The natural history of the Egyptian fruit bat, Rousettus aegyptiacus, in Turkey (Mammalia: Chiroptera). Turk. J. Zool., 32: 11 - 18.
  8. Mills, M.G.L. and Hes, L. (1997) The Complete Book of Southern African Mammals. Struik, Cape Town.
  9. Macdonald, D.W. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  10. Korine, C., Izhaki, I. and Arad, Z. (1999) Is the Egyptian fruit-bat Rousettus aegyptiacus a pest in Israel? An analysis of the bat’s diet and implications for its conservation. Biological Conservation, 88: 301 - 306.
  11. Hadjisterkotis, E. (2006) The destruction and conservation of the Egyptian fruit bat Rousettus aegyptiacus in Cyprus: a historic review. European Journal of Wildlife Research, 52: 282 - 287.
  12. Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats (Eurobats) (August, 2009)
    http://www.eurobats.org/index.htm
  13. EU Habitats Directive (August, 2009)
    http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-1374
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Image credit

Egyptian fruit bat, head detail  
Egyptian fruit bat, head detail

© Hugo Willocx / Wildlife Pictures / Biosphoto

Biosphoto
16 rue Velouterie
Avignon
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France
Tel: +33 (490) 162 042
Fax: +33 (663) 208 434
http://www.biosphoto.com/

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