Lesser short-nosed fruit bat (Cynopterus brachyotis)

Also known as: common fruit bat, Lesser dog-faced fruit bat
Synonyms: Cynopterus archipelagus, Cynopterus babi, Cynopterus minor, Cynopterus nusatenggara
GenusCynopterus (1)
SizeHead-and-body length: 72 - 90 mm (2)
Tail length: 10 - 16 mm (2)
Forearm length: 55 - 66 mm (2)
Weight28 - 40 grams (2)

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

With an appearance typical of a fruit bat, the lesser short-nosed fruit bat is a beautiful example. Its dog-like face with large, appealing eyes and white edging on the ears give this bat a magical quality. When roosting, the bat wraps its black wings tightly around its body like a cloak, leaving only the head visible. The white finger bones stand out against the black wing membranes, adding to the striking effect. The fur is short and greyish brown to yellowish brown on the back and paler on the underside. Adult males have a dark orange-red collar and females a more yellow-orange collar. Juveniles lack this collar and tend to be uniformly grey (2).

This species of fruit bat is found across Southern and Southeast Asia, from Sri Lanka to Indonesia and the Philippines. It has many subspecies that vary in size and colouration: Cynopterus brachyotis altitudinis (Cameron Highlands of Peninsular Malaysia) (3); Cynopterus brachyotis brachyotis (Borneo, Lombok, Peninsular Malaysia, the Philippines, Sulawesi) (4); Cynopterus brachyotis brachysoma (Andaman Islands) (4); Cynopterus brachyotis ceylonensis (Sri Lanka) (4); Cynopterus brachyotis concolor (Enganno Island) (3); Cynopterus brachyotis hoffeti (Vietnam) (3); Cynopterus brachyotis insularum (Kangean Island) (3); Cynopterus brachyotis javanicus (Java) (3); Cynopterus brachyotis minutus (Nias Islands) (4).

The lesser short-nosed fruit bat occurs in many different habitats, from pristine primary rainforests, to oil palm plantations, gardens and mangroves (5).

Under favourable conditions, female lesser short-nosed fruit bats give birth to one pup twice each year, once between mid January and mid April, and again between mid June and early October. Pregnancy lasts between five and six months and the birth of the pups does not necessarily occur in time with flowering or fruiting (6). Females carry their pup in flight for the first few months of life, until it has learnt to fly with confidence (2). The young become sexually mature at seven months, and females will give birth to their first pup at just over 12 months old (6).

Lesser short-nosed fruit bats become active shortly after sunset and fly directly to fruiting trees up to 2 km away (7) to feed on small fruits, including mangoes (6) and figs, as well as on nectar (8). They fly around the trees several times before settling on the fruit (7), where they use claws on the first and second digits of the hands, as well as their strong feet, to cling on to bunches of fruit whilst feeding. As fruit bats do not echolocate, they must find their food using their large eyes and strong sense of smell. During the day, they return to their roosts under shaded trees, tree-ferns and near the entrances of caves (8). This species is a particularly important seed-disperser; it is a seasonal specialist, and over an annual fruiting cycle can consume the fruits of 54 species, the leaves of 14 species and the flower parts of four species (9).

The current decline in many populations of the lesser short-nosed fruit bat is due to deforestation of primary and secondary forests for timber and palm oil plantations. Loss of habitat is a threat to the vast majority of Southeast Asian bat species, as even protected areas of forest are felled to create land for crops, plantations, and villages. Fruit bats are also commonly persecuted by fruit farmers for the damage they do to their yield, although the importance of fruit bats in pollinating crops is often underestimated (1) (2).

Deforestation of primary forest for oil palm plantations, including within protected areas, is an issue of major concern and one that relies on both governmental action and consumer concern. Some large retailers have agreed, in collaboration with the WWF, to source products containing palm oil from plantations that are not on deforested land (8). Many scientific and charitable groups contribute to bat monitoring and local education programmes that can help to reduce persecution and raise awareness of the natural assets of the land (7).

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

  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2011)