Lesser mouse-tailed bat (Rhinopoma hardwickii)

Synonyms: Rhinopoma hardwickei
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderChiroptera
FamilyRhinopomatidae
GenusRhinopoma (1)
SizeHead-body length: 5.3 - 9 cm (2)
Tail length: 4.5 - 7.5 cm (2)
Weight6 - 14 g (2)

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

The lesser mouse-tailed bat is, as its name suggests, a fairly small bat with a very long, mouse-like tail. In fact, it has one of the longest tails of all bats, often as long as the head and body combined. The fur on the body of the lesser mouse-tailed bat is usually brown-grey in colour, tending towards darker brown on the back and lighter grey on the underside (3). The face is furless, with beady black eyes, a flat, thin snout and a blunt nose, and the ears are large in proportion to the head (2). A thickened portion of skin at the end of the snout forms a noseleaf, which the bat uses as an amplifier for its echolocation calls (3). The long, thin tail is only partially enclosed within a flap of skin, known as the tail membrane, which aids the bat when flying; this is in contrast to many other bat species in which the tail membrane fully encloses the tail (3).

The lesser mouse-tailed bat is found in North and Central Africa, as well as the Middle East and Asia. Its range extends from Morocco to Egypt, as far south as Ethiopia and Kenya, east through Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, to India, possibly Myanmar, and Thailand (1).

Found primarily in arid regions, the lesser mouse-tailed bat favours oases, which provide a rich supply of insect prey and trees in which to roost. Roosting sites also include dry caves, as well as man-made structures such as old and abandoned buildings, wells and ruins (1) (3).

The lesser mouse-tailed bat feeds primarily on insects, which are caught in flight. Its flight is rather unique amongst bats as it initially flutters its wings and then partially glides (2). Like most bats, the lesser mouse-tailed bat uses echolocation to locate prey and avoid obstacles, allowing it to fly in complete darkness. The ultrasound calls, which are emitted through the nostrils (4), consist of long, high frequency chirps (of around 32 kilohertz) (5). Feeding as much as possible during the summer months, the lesser mouse-tailed bat builds up fat in its abdominal region in preparation for the winter, when food is scarce. During the winter season, the lesser mouse-tailed bat enters a period of dormancy (hibernation) and lives off its fat reserves (2).

After awakening from its winter dormancy in late February, the lesser mouse-tailed bat enters its breeding season, which lasts until the middle of April (6). The gestation period lasts from 95 to 100 days, after which the female gives birth to a single young in June or July (6).

The lesser mouse-tailed bat is well adapted to its arid habitat. The slit-shaped nostrils can be closed to keep out dust and sand and it is able to survive without a source of fresh water, as it obtains most of the water it requires from its food. The kidneys are also able to produce highly concentrated urine, in order to conserve precious water (7).

Human disturbance of suitable roosting sites is the main threat facing the lesser mouse-tailed bat. The congregation of many individuals in one small area potentially increases the damage done to local populations if they are disturbed (1). In addition, in agricultural areas, pesticides used to control locusts can affect bats when they eat contaminated insects (1). However, these threats are not thought to currently be major problems for the species as a whole (1).

As a widespread and common species, there are currently no specific conservation measures in place for the lesser mouse-tailed bat (1). However, a study to determine the exact impact of pesticide-use on this species, along with determining ways in which the impact could be reduced, would be beneficial to this small mammal (1).

To learn more about bat conservation 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. Nowak, R.M. (1994) Walker's Bats of the World.The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
  3. Francis, C.M. (2008) A Field Guide to the Mammals of South East Asia. New Holland Publishers, London.
  4. Hill, J.E. and Smith, J.D. (1992) Bats: A Natural History. University of Texas Press, Austin.
  5. Dietz, C. (2005) Illustrated Identification Key to the Bats of Egypt. Electronic Publication, Tuebingen, Germany. Available at:
    http://www.opwall.com/Library/Egypt/Egypt%20Terrestrial/Bats/Identification%20key%20to%20the%20bats%20of%20Egypt.pdf
  6. Karim, K.B. and Fazil, M. (1987) Early embryonic development and preimplantation changes in the uterus of the bat Rhinopoma hardwickei hardwickei (Gray) (Rhinopomatidae). The American Journal of Anatomy, 178: 341-351.
  7. Wimsatt, W. (1977) Biology of Bats. Volume III. Academic Press, New York.