Old World sucker-footed bat (Myzopoda aurita)
|Size||Length: 105 - 125 mm (2)|
|Weight||8 – 10 g (2)|
Classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List (1).
This peculiar looking bat is one of only four sucker-footed bats in the world, and is found only on the island of Madagascar. Their prominent feature, and the origin of their name, is the horse-shoe shaped suction pads on the thumbs and soles. The Myzopoda sucker-footed bats differ from the other two sucker-footed bats in South America, as their suckers are not borne on small stalks. The large ears possess a tragus, and a unique small mushroom-shaped process lies at the base. The lips are wide, with the upper lip protruding significantly beyond the lower, and the thumb has a small vestigial claw. The fur varies from mid-brown to a rich golden-brown and is tinged with russet (2) (3). The long tail projects beyond the membrane that stretches between the arms, legs and elongated fingers to form the wings (4). The Old World sucker-footed bat was believed to be the only species in the genus Myzopoda until early 2007, when a new species (Myzopoda schliemanni) was discovered in Madagascar. It differs from Myzopoda aurita in the colour of its fur, its external measurements and features of the skull (5).
Endemic to Madagascar, the Old World sucker-footed bat has been found at a number of localities on the eastern coast, and at a couple of locations in western Madagascar (2) (6).
The Old World sucker-footed bat is thought to be restricted to rainforest and the ‘savoka’, or secondary forest (2) (3).
This rare and little studied bat is only known from a few specimens. What is known about it is that its remarkable suction pads enable it to cling to smooth vertical surfaces. Glands secrete a substance directly onto the surface of the suction pads to aid adhesion to a surface, creating a bond strong enough to support the bat’s entire body weight. One specimen was found roosting in the uncoiled leaf of the palm Ravenala madagascariensis and therefore it is presumed to roost in palms and similar vegetation. It roosts with the head uppermost whilst using the tail as a prop (2) (3). The Old World sucker-footed bat possesses a complex echolocation system and produces remarkably long calls, used to hunt insects, in particular small moths (2).
Like many other Malagasy species, the loss of forest habitat certainly poses a threat to the Old World sucker-footed bat. The forests of Madagascar face continuous and intensive pressure from encroaching agriculture, fire and over-exploitation, all intensified by growing human populations (7). However, the extent to which it may be impacted is hard to determine due to the lack of information regarding this species’ behaviour and ecology. If the Old World sucker-footed bat roosts primarily in Ravenala, its roost sites may be secure as this palm species is more common in secondary, rather than primary, forest (8).
At present there are no known conservation measures in place specifically for the Old World sucker-footed bat, however it does occur in at least one protected area; the Ankarafantsika National Park in the Mahajanga Province. The IUCN/SSC Chiroptera Specialist Group outlines a number of conservation actions recommended for this species including carrying out further research on distribution and abundance, using radio-tracking to establish roosting and foraging requirements, and designating critical areas as reserves (8).
For further information on the Old World sucker-footed bat and its conservation, see:
IUCN/SSC Microchiropteran Bats: Global Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan:
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- Echolocation: detecting objects by reflected sound. Used by bats, whales and dolphins for orientation and detecting and locating prey.
- Endemic: a species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- Tragus: a flap of skin-covered cartilage in front of the external opening of the ear.
IUCN Red List (June, 2009)
- Garbutt, N. (1999) Mammals of Madagascar. Pica Press, Sussex.
- Schliemann, H. and Maas, B. (1978) Myzopoda aurita. Mammalian Species, 116: 1 - 2.
- Macdonald, D.W. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Goodman, S.M., Rakotondraparany, F. and Kofoky, A. (2007) The description of a new species of Myzopoda (Myzopodidae: Chiroptera) from western Madagascar. Mammalian Biology, 72: 65 - 81.
- Goodman, S.M., Andriafidison, D., Andrianaivoarivelo, R., Cardiff, S.G., Ifticene, E., Jenkins, R.K.B., Kofoky, A., Mbohoahy, T., Rakotondravony, D., Ranivo, J., Ratrimomanarivo, F., Razafimanahaka, J. and Racey, P.A. (2005) The distribution and conservation of bats in the dry regions of Madagascar. Animal Conservation, 8: 153 - 165.
World Wildlife Fund (June, 2007)
Hutson, A.M., Mickleburgh, S.P. and Racey, P.A. (2001) Microchiropteran bats: global status survey and conservation action plan. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. Available at: