Lyle's flying fox (Pteropus lylei)
|Also known as:||Lyle’s fruit bat|
|Spanish:||Zorro Volador De Lyle|
|Size||Wingspan: 90 cm (2)|
Skull Length: 6.1 - 6.6 cm (3)
Bent forearm length: 14.5 -16 cm (3)
|Weight||390 - 480 g (3)|
Lyle's flying fox is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1) and is listed on Appendix II of CITES (4).
Lyle’s flying fox (Pteropus lylei) is a medium-sized flying fox which forms large colonies high up in trees. Lyle’s flying fox has a long dark muzzle, large eyes and a ring of orange fur around the neck, and bears some resemblance to a fox, hence the common name ‘flying fox’ (5).
The wings and back of Lyle's flying fox are dark brown or black, which strongly contrast against the bright fur around the head and neck. Its lower body varies from a deep dark-brown to a brighter yellow-brown. Its breast and belly are black-brown, which is similar to the large flying fox (Pteropus vampyrus) (3).
Lyle’s flying fox is native to Southeast Asia and is found in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Yunnan in China. This species has been mostly documented in Thailand, where at least 11 colonies have been identified, the largest containing around 3,000 individuals (1).
Lyles’s flying fox can be found in some of Southeast Asia’s most secluded jungles, as well as in the middle of villages or even large urban metropolises such as Bangkok. The species usually roosts in temples in the middle of urban areas (3).
Colonies inhabiting the forest roost in the tops of tall canopy trees, which they revisit year after year (5) (6).
The diet of Lyle’s flying fox consists mainly of ripe fruit. However, this species will also feed on nectar, pollen and blossoms to ensure it gets enough energy. Fruit is very low in protein and sodium, so the salivary gland of Lyle’s flying fox has become specially adapted to ensure this species can extract the required nutrients (7).
Lyle’s flying fox’s primary sense when foraging is vision, as it lacks the echolocation abilities of insectivorous bats. It has well developed teeth which are used to chew fruit while spitting out most of the seeds and pulp (5). Some seeds are ingested, which is important for the local ecosystem as it allows for the dispersal of seeds into other areas (2).
Although it is a nocturnal species, Lyle’s flying fox is very sociable and noisy during the day, as this is when females suckle their young (5). Large noisy colonies are very conspicuous, but they have few natural predators and so can hang safely up in the trees all day (6).
Unlike other bat families, fruit bats do not hibernate. Instead, Lyle’s flying fox produces heat by shivering, which keeps its body temperature between 33 and 37 degrees Celsius (6).
Lyle’s flying fox, and other species of bat, have been found to harbor large reservoirs of the Nipah virus. Although the virus does not harm the bat, it can be deadly to humans, and there is substantial data suggesting that recent outbreaks were caused by bat to person transmission of the virus (8).
The population of Lyle’s flying fox is believed to be in decline, a trend which is expected to continue due to human pressures on its environment (1). Habitat loss is a major threat to the population (1), with deforestation and construction projects irreversibly destroying the forests that Lyle’s flying fox relies on for roosting and for food (3).
Farmers also pose a threat as they consider Lyle’s flying fox to be a crop pest, resulting in persecution of this species (3).
Lyle’s flying fox is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), so trade in this species should be carefully monitored (4). There are no known populations within protected areas in Vietnam or Cambodia. However, this species is protected by monks in Thailand where populations roost in temple roofs (1).
Learn more about efforts to conserve bats around the world:
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- Echolocation: detecting objects by reflected sound. Used by bats and odontocete cetaceans (toothed whales, dolphins and porpoises) for orientation and to detect and locate prey.
- Gland: an organ that makes and secretes substances used by the body.
- Hibernation: a winter survival strategy in which an animal’s metabolic rate slows down and a state of deep sleep is attained. While hibernating, animals survive on stored reserves of fat that they have accumulated in summer.
- Insectivorous: insect-eating.
- Nocturnal: active at night.
IUCN Red List (July, 2012)
Fujita, M. (1988) Flying foxes and economics. Bats Magazine, 6: 1. Available at:
- Hondo, E., Inoue, N., Maeda, K., Rerkamnuaychoke, W. and Duengkae, P. (2010) Movement of Lyle's flying fox (Pteropus lylei) in Central Thailand. Journal of Wildlife in Thailand, 17: 55-63.
CITES (July, 2012)
- Wilson, E.D. (1997) Bats in Question: The Smithsonian Answer Book (Second Edition). Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C.
- Allen, G.M. (1980) Bats: Biology, Behavior and Folklore. Harvard University, Dover publications INC.
- Lanlua, P., Sricharoenvej, S., Niyomchan, A. and Chico, D.E. (2007) Unique cellular structures in the parotid gland of an Old World fruit bat, Pteropus lylei (Lyle's flying fox). Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology, 112: 179-90.
- Luby, S.P. et al. (2009) Recurrent zoonotic transmission of Nipah virus into humans, Bangladesh, 2001-2007. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 15:1229-1235.