Greater mouse-tailed bat (Rhinopoma microphyllum)

Synonyms: Rhinopoma hadithaensis
GenusRhinopoma (1)
SizeHead-body length: 5.3 - 9 cm (2)
Wingspan: 17 - 25 cm (2)
Weight6 - 14 g (2)

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

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).

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).

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).    

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).

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).

To learn more about bat conservation see:

Checked (24/08/10) by Dr Francis Gilbert, Associate Professor, University of Nottingham.

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2010)
  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.