Greater mouse-tailed bat (Rhinopoma microphyllum)

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Greater mouse-tailed bat colony
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Greater mouse-tailed bat fact file

Greater mouse-tailed bat description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderChiroptera
FamilyRhinopomatidae
GenusRhinopoma (1)

One of the few bats in the world to have a tail as long as the head and body combined, the greater mouse-tailed bat has soft, greyish-brown or dark brown fur on the body, with a paler abdomen. The face, the rump and the rear part of the abdomen are bare (2). It has large ears, which are connected across the forehead by a flap of skin, and slit-like nostrils (3). This species also has the ability to hang by its thumbs as well as its feet (2).

Synonyms
Rhinopoma hadithaensis.
Size
Head-body length: 5.3 - 9 cm (2)
Wingspan: 17 - 25 cm (2)
Weight
6 - 14 g (2)
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Greater mouse-tailed bat biology

The greater mouse-tailed bat lives in large colonies, sometimes containing over a thousand individuals (2). Its diet varies depending on the time of year and the location; for example, a population of bats in Iran was found to feed almost exclusively on beetles (4), while in Israel, during the summer months, the greater mouse-tailed bat is known to feast on carpenter ants during their massive nuptial flights, in which male and female ants emerge from nests to mate (5).

Over autumn, the greater mouse-tailed bat accumulates fat and almost doubles in weight, allowing it to survive for several weeks without any food or water during the harsh winter months when insect prey is scarce. As a result, the greater mouse-tailed bat does not need to hibernate and instead remains active throughout the year (1) (2).

Female greater mouse-tailed bats mate in spring, around March, giving birth to a single young in June or July after a gestation period of around 18 weeks. The young are weaned after six to eight weeks and become sexually mature in their second year of life (2).    

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Greater mouse-tailed bat range

This species of bat is widespread across northern Africa and the Middle East, across to India. There are also unconfirmed reports of populations occurring in Thailand and Sumatra (Indonesia) (1).

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Greater mouse-tailed bat habitat

The greater mouse-tailed bat is a desert species, occupying areas of little vegetation with an annual rainfall of less than 300 millimetres. It roosts in caves, mines, tunnels, old monuments and buildings (1), and is even known to have lived in the ancient pyramids of Egypt for over 3,000 years (2).

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Greater mouse-tailed bat status

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

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Greater mouse-tailed bat threats

Like many other bats, the greater mouse-tailed bat may be affected by human disturbance of its roosting sites, especially as it often roosts in buildings in close proximity with people. The use of pesticides to control locusts is also a common threat to bats. However, due to the greater mouse-tailed bat’s wide range and large population, neither threat is considered to be a serious risk at present (1).

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Greater mouse-tailed bat conservation

The greater mouse-tailed bat is not currently known to be the focus of any specific conservation measures, although it is presumed to occur in some protected areas throughout its large range. Further research needs to be undertaken to determine the risk that pesticides pose to this species (1).

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Find out more

To learn more about bat conservation see:

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Authentication

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

This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.
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Glossary

Gestation
The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
Hibernate
Hibernation is a winter survival strategy characteristic of some mammals in which an animal’s metabolic rate slows down and a state of deep sleep is attained. Whilst hibernating, animals survive on stored reserves of fat that they have accumulated in summer.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Novak, R.W. (1994) Walker’s Bats of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  3. Feldhamer, G.C., Drickamer, L.C. and Vessey, S.H. (2007) Mammalogy: Adaptation, Diversity, Ecology. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  4. Sharifi, M. and Hemmati, Z. (2002) Variation in the diet of the greater mouse-tailed bat, Rhinopoma microphyllum (Chiroptera: Rhinopomatidae) in south-western Iran.  Zoology in the Middle East, 26: 65-70. 
  5. Levin, E., Yom-Tov, Y. and Barnea, A. (2009) Frequent summer nuptial flights of ants provide a primary food source for bats. Naturwissenschaften, 96: 477-483.
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Image credit

Greater mouse-tailed bat colony  
Greater mouse-tailed bat colony

© Eyal Bartov

Eyal Bartov
bartove@netvision.net.il
http://www.eyalbartov.com

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