Mehely’s horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus mehelyi)

French: Rhinolophe De Mehely
GenusRhinolophus (1)
SizeLength: 8.1 - 8.6 cm (2)
Forearm length: 4.6 - 5 cm (2)
Tail length: 2.1 - 2.6 cm (2)
Weight12 - 20 g (3)

Mehely’s horseshoe bat is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

Mehely’s horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus mehelyi) is a medium-sized bat with grey-brown to warm brown fur, which is paler on the underside (2). It has relatively short and broad ears (2).

Bats in the genus Rhinolophus are named for the distinctive horseshoe-shaped fold of skin which forms part of the characteristic noseleaf. A peculiar-looking, complex structure of fleshy skin surrounding the nostrils (4), the noseleaf helps to direct and focus the sound transmitted out of the nostrils during echolocation (5). All horseshoe bats have ears which lack a tragus, relatively short tails, and small eyes which are often obscured by the noseleaf. The wings are broad, with rounded ends (4).

This species is sometimes confused with the Mediterranean horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus euryale), but can be distinguished by careful examination of the noseleaf (2).

Mehely’s horseshoe bat occurs in Europe, Africa and Asia. It is mainly present in the Mediterranean region, including in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt, and ranging north to Spain, Portugal and Italy. In Asia, this species is known to occur in Iran and Afghanistan (1).

This species is known to occur at elevations up to 2,000 metres (1).

Mehely’s horseshoe bat generally prefers natural habitats over artificial ones, roosting in warm caves in the summer and colder, underground caves in the winter (1). Its foraging grounds include shrub and woodland, as well as dry steppe habitats (1).

An insectivorous species, Mehely’s horseshoe bat specialises in hunting moths, but will also consume other invertebrates such as beetles and flies (6). Mehely’s horseshoe bat typically to uses a perch-hunting strategy, where it will hunt prey in short flights from a perch (7).

Like most species in the genus Rhinolophus, Mehely’s horseshoe bat is gregarious, forming moderate-sized colonies that sometimes include other species (1) (4). Winter colonies of hibernating Mehely’s horseshoe bats can contain up to 5,000 individuals (1). While at rest, horseshoe bats hang upside-down with the wings wrapped around the body, rather than resting alongside like most other bat species (4).

Although there is little information available on the reproductive biology of Mehely’s horseshoe bat, it is known to form summer nursery colonies of between 30 and 500 individuals (1). Mehely’s horseshoe bat usually gives birth to a litter of two young, and these are fed on milk produced by the female (2) (4). In addition to the milk producing teats, female horseshoe bats also have two teat-like projections, known as ‘dummy teats’, to which the young will cling during flight (4).

Mehely’s horseshoe bat is declining throughout its range, and is facing extinction in France (1). Although the exact reasons for its decline are not fully understood, this species is known to face a number of threats, including destruction of its roosting caves by tourism and the loss of its foraging habitats (1).

This species is also vulnerable to collisions with cars in some areas (1).

Mehely’s horseshoe bat is protected by national legislation throughout its European range, and is also afforded some international protection by its listing on the Bonn and Bern conventions (1) (8) (9). Its inclusion in the EU Habitats and Species Directive means this species is earmarked for special conservation measures, and some of its roosts are already protected (1).

A project in Spain funded by the EU LIFE Program aims to conserve Mehely’s horseshoe bat, along with other cave and forest dwelling species (1) (10). There are, however, no conservation measures in place for Mehely’s horseshoe bat in North Africa (1).

Find out more on bat conservation:

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  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2011)
  2. Hoath, R. (2009) A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt. The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo and New York.
  3. Kunz, T.H. and Fenton, M.B. (2003) Bat Ecology. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
  4. Nowak, R.M. (1991) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
  5. Macdonald, D.W. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. Salsamendi, E. et al. (2008) Diet and prey selection in Mehelyi's horseshoe bat Rhinolophus mehelyi (Chiroptera, Rhinolophidae) in the south-western Iberian Peninsula. Acta Chiropterologica, 10(2): 279-286.
  7. Voigt, C.C., Schuller, B.-M., Greif, S. and Siemers, B.M. (2010) Perch-hunting in insectivorous Rhinolophus bats is related to the high energy costs of manoeuvring in flight. The Journal of Comparative Physiology B, 180: 1079-1088.
  8. Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (October, 2011)
  9. Council of Europe: Bern Convention (October, 2011)
  10. European Commission LIFE Programme (October, 2011)