Egyptian slit-faced bat (Nycteris thebaica)

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderChiroptera
FamilyNycteridae
GenusNycteris (1)
SizeHead-body length: 8 - 13 cm (2)
Tail length: 4.5 - 4.6 cm (2)
Forearm length: 4.3 - 4.9 cm (2)
Ear length: 3.5 - 4 cm (2) (3)

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

The Egyptian slit-faced bat gets its name from the distinctive slit, or lobed groove, which runs down the centre of the face, from between the eyes to the snout (2). This bat has long fur, which is brownish to brown-grey on the back, but a paler brown to dirty-white colour on the underside (2) (4). It has impressive, large, elongated ears which stand straight up from the head, and are characteristically larger than those of other Nycteris species (2). The tragus, the fleshy projection which covers the entrance of the ear (and a useful feature for differentiating between different bat species), is small, rounded and simple. The tail of the Egyptian slit-faced bat is also unique, being long with a T-shaped tip, and it is completely enclosed within the flight membrane, which stretches between the two hind legs (2). The large wings, which are rounded at the tip (4), along with the large tail membrane, suggest this bat flies slowly but can quickly change direction with great skill (5).

The Egyptian slit-faced bat is found in sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Libya (1) (2).

Thought to have a wide habitat tolerance (1) (2) (4), the Egyptian slit-faced bat may be found in moist and dry savanna, sometimes ranging into desert and rocky areas (1) (2) (6), but is rarely found in forested areas (7). It roosts in caves and crevices, as well as tombs, ruins, roofs, houses, wells and hollow trees (1) (2) (6).

The Egyptian slit-faced bat roosts in colonies, containing anything between a few individuals to a staggering several hundred bats (2). Leaving its roost shortly after nightfall, the Egyptian slit-faced bat commences its hunt for prey, which it detects using echolocation (2). The weak, broad echolocation calls of this species allow it to hunt for prey in cluttered environments (5), and are also the reason for its alternative name of ‘whispering bat’ (8). It mostly feeds on insects, such as beetles, grasshoppers and moths, but has also been reported to eat scorpions (2). The captured prey is taken to regular feeding points, where it is consumed whilst the bat hangs from a temporary perch. The unpalatable parts of prey accumulate below such points, giving scientists a useful indication of this bat’s diet (2) (3) (4).

The breeding season of the Egyptian slit-faced batoccurs between April and July (2), with a single offspring born in early November (2) (9), which feeds on the mother’s milk for around two months (9).

The Egyptian slit-faced bat is affected by roost disturbance and habitat degradation, but these are not considered to be major threats at present (1).

There are no known conservation efforts currently in place for the Egyptian slit-faced bat. It has been recommended that this species would benefit from better protection of its roost sites and improved legal protection, as well as further research into its population size and trends (1).

To find out about efforts to conserve bats around the world see:

Checked (24/08/10) by Dr Francis Gilbert, Associate Professor, University of Nottingham.
http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/~plzfg/

  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Hoath, R. (2009) A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt. The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo.
  3. Skinner, J.D. and Chimimba, C.T. (2005) The Mammals of the Southern African Sub-region. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  4. Stuart, C. (2001) A Field Guide to Mammals of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  5. Aldridge, H.D.J.N, Obrist, M, Merriam, H.G. and Fenton, M.B. (1990) Roosting, vocalisations and foraging by the African bat, Nycteris thebaica. Journal of Mammology, 71: 242-246.
  6. Al-Omari, K.A., Abu Baker, M.A. and Amr, Z.S. (2000) First record of the Egyptian slit-faced bat, Nycteris thebaica, from Jordan. Zoology in the Middle East, 21: 5-7.
  7. Mills, M.G.L. and Hes, L. (1997) The Complete Book of Southern African Mammals. Struick Publishers, Cape Town.
  8. Gray, P.A, Brock Fenton, M. and Van Cakenberghe, V. (1999) Nycteris thebaica. Mammalian Species, 612: 1-8.
  9. Bernard, R.T.F. (1982) Female reproductive cycle of Nycteris thebaica (Microchiroptera) from Natal, South Africa. Zeitshrift fur Saeugetierkunde, 47: 12-18.